Flash-grilled: Jermaine Harriott

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled: Jermaine Harriott

Related tags Jermaine Harriott The Greyhound Restaurant Fine dining

The head chef at The Greyhound in Beaconsfield on his respect for trifle, his hatred of tardiness and Frederick Forster as his source of inspiration.

What was your first industry job?​ 
My first job in the industry was at Langan's Coq d'Or in London’s Earl’s Court at the age of 17 as a commis chef.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?​ 
I would have been a firefighter. Like a lot of young people, I found it fascinating. The danger, the adrenaline; I think I would have enjoyed this as a job if I had not found my love of cooking.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Frederick Forster. He was the first black head chef I met that was cooking at the level that I aspired to, and he inspired me to be better.

What’s your pet hate in the kitchen?
Chefs who use their fingers to taste food – not happening in my kitchen.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
Recently a guest announced to the kitchen that she was divorcing her husband and running away with me!

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Big flavours and elegant plating.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
Probably that the dish I created was too spicy. I am still not sure if it was a coincidence that one of the party asked for more chilli flakes on the table though.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Listen to your senior chefs, they have lots of knowledge and in most cases want the best for you. Be a sponge, observe, and soak up as much information as you can from those around you.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?​ A spoon is the ultimate tool – not only does it have its obvious uses but the handles are perfect for getting hard carbon off the stoves, prying stuck trays apart, I could go on…

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
I'm Jamaican, so it would have to be my dad’s steamed fish with green bananas, dumpling and yam, with Guinness punch, followed by rum and raisin ice cream and a trifle.

À la carte or tasting menu?
Both have a place in a restaurant. I like à la carte because every dish needs to be standout and deliver. When there are fewer dishes, each one needs to wow the guest, making them want to return. I find some tasting menus have a few ‘wow’ dishes, making for a good experience, but some courses you won't remember. It’s important to make every mouthful count.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?​ 
I went out for dinner with my wife in Vegas. We stumbled across this small family-run restaurant and enjoyed this fillet of beef with bone marrow and fresh asparagus. The beef was cooked unbelievably well, and I can still taste the sauce now if I think about it.

What’s your favourite fast food joint?​ 
Tortilla, because who doesn’t love a burrito? The fact that you can build your own is always a bonus. 

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?

MasterChef or Great British Menu?​ 
Great British Menu as it showcases the country’s best chefs at the top of their game.

What’s the most overrated food?​ Caviar. I like it, but essentially it is used for its saltiness and to look pretty. It is a very expensive seasoning.

Your restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban? 
Guests and staff who are late. I can’t stand lateness.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be? 
Probably my father. We lost him in 2014 and I would love to take him out and tell him all about The Greyhound and what we are striving for here.

What’s your earliest food memory?​ 
Travelling with my brother and dad, buying peppered shrimp at the beach. We would purchase the most amazing seafood and walk together slowly whilst eating. The freshness, the smell of the sea, the sun, it really takes me back when I think about it. It also reinforces the fact that it isn’t just what you are eating, it is the environment you are in too.

Twitter or Instagram?

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?​ I have been involved in two road accidents, both not my fault. Once on my motorbike and the other in my car. It certainly reminded me that the roads are not as safe as we think they are.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
The forest across the road from my house. It’s super peaceful for a walk with just the trees and wildlife around you. 

What’s your tipple of choice?​ 

What’s your favourite food and drink pairing? 
Strawberry milkshake and salted fries 

What do you consider to be your signature dish?
I have this chicken and cauliflower dish I make for my other half and I think it’s my signature dish in our house. At work, I don't think I have one, firstly because we work with the seasons and dishes are ever-changing and evolving, and secondly, I have only been head chef for a few months. I am sure by this time next year I will have one.

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