October 7, 2008

Mine Host Tells How He Sidestepped the Pits to Win Awards

By Sally Williams

A WELSH chef who sidestepped a job down the mines in the Valleys to open an award winning restaurant-with-rooms has written a cook book to show foodie wannabes how it can be done.

Bryan Webb was brought up in Crumlin where his late father Bernard was a mines rescue manager whose operations included the 1966 Aberfan tragedy.

"There were three coal mines in our village and I knew mining was dangerous so at 14 years old I realised I wanted to be a chef not a miner," said Mr Webb.

When he left school aged 15, he went straight into a job at the Crown at White brook, near Monmouth, where, in 1976, Sonia Blech had become the first woman in the UK to win a Michelin star.

"Valley food then was pretty basic: over-cooked meat and thick gravy," said Mr Webb.

"Had my first job been flipping burgers I might have ended up down the mines but Sonia and Neville Blech at the Crown paved the road to what I have achieved as a chef and restaurateur." After winning the William Hepinstall award for young chefs, a stint in France, a head chef role in London aged 24, 14 years at Hilaire, and travelling around the world seeking out the cuisine of Asia, Australia and the USA, he took on Tyddyn Llan, a Georgian house near Corwen on the edge of Snowdonia National Park.

"We took Tyddyn Llan over in 2002 and were named the Good Food Guide's Restaurant of the Year in 2003 and got a Silver True Taste award," he said.

His new cook book is packed with recipes like roast wild bass with laverbread butter sauce, designed to be "doable" for ordinary mortals.

"The recipes in my book have all been close to my heart for the last 16 years. I hope people enjoy cooking them as much as I have," he said.

Bryan Webb's Kitchen is published on October 16, by Graffeg, priced pounds 14.99

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