Feature – Chewing The Fat – Ollie Couillaud
For this month’s Chewing The Fat feature, we chatted to Ollie Couillaud, a self-confessed “mad Frenchie” with a passion for Japanese food and local produce.
Tell us about your background:
I was born and raised in Vouillé, a small village outside Poitiers in France. I spent most of my childhood there and eventually studied to become a chef. I then spent three years working in Lake Louise, Alberta in Canada, before I moved to London.
Over the years, I’ve worked restaurants and hotels like The Square, Chez Bruce, Eric Chavot, La Trompette, Tom’s Kitchen, The Lawn Bistro, The Dorchester, and The Grosvenor House
I am now chef and co-owner at Sam’s of Brighton and working on exciting projects here in Brighton.
What inspires you?
Anything and everything. I get very excited when I’m surrounded by produce; my brain just goes into stealth mode.
I spend a lot of time walking through markets, especially Asian markets, and I love discovering new ingredients. Half the time I have no idea what I’m buying, but I’m getting better. I make a mean Shiitake mushroom vinaigrette. I’ve spent weeks working on it and I’m now happy and ready to put it against anyone!
I am fascinated by Japanese cooking, I could spend hours watching sushi chefs. A friend of mine has a Japanese cooking school in Wimbledon and her precision and technique are amazing.
What is your favourite food memory?
Watching my aunt and my mum cooking together at the family restaurant back home. It was mesmerizing; their passion and the love they have for cooking and restaurants is anchored in me forever
Another is going to my uncle’s farm and milking goats to make cheese and curds. I used to spend hours down there learning to make cheese and black pudding.
We took many trips down to Gascony in the southwest of France, where we would gorge ourselves on foie gras. When I was doing my bachelor degree, we stayed in castle for a week as part of a field trip exploring foie gras farms, markets, Armagnac distilleries, and wine estates.
What are your favourite ingredients and cooking techniques?
Raw fish, I eat tonnes of it. Also any kinds of seafood. There’s an Asian supermarket in New Malden and I go there every week without fail and they have an incredible fresh fish counter. I love marinating raw fish using all sorts of Asian ingredients.
Braising and curing is another passion of mine. It is so rewarding
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would like to think I can start slowing down a bit and get someone else involve in running the business. I still want to be cooking , but perhaps in a more advisory role. I also want to travel the world on a motorbike and cook with other people, but it has to be in small and remote villages to discover the true meaning of their culture through their methods and dishes. If all else fails, I’d be happy in Goa chilling.
Sum up your cooking style in three words?
Cuisine du terroir, honest, fun.
Find Ollie at Sam’s of Brighton, 1 Paston Place, Brighton, BN2 1HA
Originally printed in the Brighton & Hove Independent Friday 6th March 2015