Flash-grilled: Julia Patterlini

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Julia Patterlini head chef at Heckfield Place on working with Skye Gyngell and what to drink with Brazilian barbecue

Related tags Chef Restaurant Fine dining

The head chef at Heckfield Place on working with Skye Gyngell, what to drink with Brazilian barbecue, and cooking for fussy canines.

What was your first industry job?
I spent the beginning of my career doing stages. Nonsensically, I thought that starting as a chef at the age of 20 was quite late and I felt I had a lot to catch up on. So I staged in literally all restaurants I deemed decent in my hometown in Brazil. Then I moved to Italy and spent just under a year doing stages there too.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
If talent (and reality) didn’t matter, I’d be a backup dancer for Beyoncé, obviously. If not, I don’t know – real estate? I guess it’s just kitchens for me.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
So many people, though no one has shaped me into the chef am I today as much as Skye Gyngell (with whom I’ve been working for about eight years). She’s changed my relationship with produce, and influenced how I cook, how I eat, how I approach a service, treat my staff, view sustainability in the industry etc.

What’s your pet hate in the kitchen?
Double-dipping.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
I could go for days. My favourite one was a guest that asked me to cook a trout for their dog. Weird enough, but ok. However, the dog would only eat it grilled. Not pan fried or roasted, only grilled.

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Simple, seasonal, produce led, heartfelt.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
I take constructive criticism on board, learn from it and move on. Everything else I don’t dwell on much so I honestly wouldn’t remember. 

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
A good, sharp knife.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
A big bowl of polenta like my grandma used to make. Either with some cotechino and radicchio, or a nice ragu.

À la carte or tasting menu?
À la carte – but then ordering the entire menu.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
I had a meal in Relae (in Copenhagen) a few years ago that I found really inspiring – their ethos, their relationship with their farm, how they had created a sustainable little community of restaurants/suppliers in the city, etc. But also an incredibly tasty meal. Sadly, Relae closed down a couple of years ago.

What’s your favourite fast food joint?
Bleecker.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Not one dish specifically, but I’m constantly in awe at a lot of dishes Septime has created.

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
Great British Menu.

What’s the most overrated food?
Macaroons. I’ll never understand the fuss.

You’re restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Single use plastic.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
Sounds silly, but probably my parents. My dad never got to see me become a chef and I don’t think I ever got to cook for him. And I’ve lived across the ocean from my mom basically my whole career, so she’s only got to see me cooking professionally once.

What’s your earliest food memory?
Climbing up a mango tree in my grandparent’s house and eating as many mangoes as I possibly could.

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I got hit by a tram in Lisbon a few years ago.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
I’ll get on a plane and go anywhere.

What’s your tipple of choice?
Currently it's red wine - either amarone or sangiovese.

What’s your favourite food and drink pairing?
Caipirinha and churrasco (Brazilian barbecue).

What do you consider to be your signature dish?
I don’t think I have one. I’d rather keep creating and evolving.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Be curious – read, travel, ask as many questions as you can and take it all on board. Knowledge comes from all kinds of sources and you can never get enough of it.

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