Chef Interview Charlie Brookman
Charlie Brookman is the owner and head chef of The Chimney House, in Seven Dials. After holding the position of head chef at The Royal Court Theatre in London, Charlie took over the pub in his home town of Brighton in 2012 and is Brighton’s only restaurant that uses totally local, sustainable foraged ingredients.
Which is your favourite food/ingredient to work with?
I don’t really have a favourite, it’s too hard to choose. I work with foraged and wild ingredients a lot as it gives me the ability to make really unusual, diverse dishes. I also like the challenge that comes with never quite knowing from week to week what I’m going to be cooking with as it depends on what we can find! I think working with dairy is really interesting, we make our own sour cream and butter milk by changing the amounts of bacteria we introduce to the original milk, and I also love butchery. When you get a whole carcass it makes you really appreciate the need to use as much as you can, we are big on nose-to-tail cooking here. One of our most popular dishes is pigs head with haws and hazelnut.
Did you cook growing up and if so, who inspired you?
Food was a really big part of my childhood, my grandmother had a café on the Fulham Road so I would help her bake the cakes when I was really small. My dad was also a chef and was cooking constantly from scratch, I remember making fresh pasta with him which was quite unusual in the eighties. Another big influence was my godmother, who lived in Denmark. We used to visit her and go hunting, fishing and foraging, which is where my love for wild ingredients came from. She would bring over huge joints of venison for us in her suitcase.
Best piece of advice you would give a home enthusiast?
Just be brave, have fun and experiment. Cooking should be a pleasure, and nothing can go that badly wrong. Worst comes the worst, get a takeaway and try again tomorrow.
Favourite kitchen gadget?
At the moment it is definitely my Smoking Gun – it’s small, it fits nicely on the surface, and it’s basically a hand held smoking machine, using wood chips to cold smoke anything you want. We use it to smoke egg yolks but you could use it with meat, fish, cheese… anything. It’s only £50.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
The food scene in Brighton is getting really interesting, we’re really lucky in that we get amazing quality but without the London fine dining prices – Brightonians are a bit more down to earth but still know and appreciate when food is done properly. Here at The Chimney House it’s so important to us that we provide great, accessible food.See the listing for Chimney House Brighton