Bohemia head chef Callum Graham tells Emily Moore how every day is a challenge to the Michelin-starred restaurant as the team strives to make things better than they already are
IT has held a Michelin star for 19 years, achieved its Four AA Rosette rating last year, made the Sunday Times list of top 100 restaurants in the UK and was named by La Liste as one of the top 1,000 restaurants in the world.
Having racked up so many accolades, you could be forgiven for thinking that the team at Bohemia had achieved all of its objectives. And yet, as head chef Callum Graham says, ‘There is always room for improvement’.
‘While the accolades are great, the most important thing for us is to delight our guests,’ he said, ‘and, to achieve that, you can never afford to relax or take your foot off the gas.
‘As a result, every day is a challenge as we keep pushing the boundaries and ensuring that we always deliver the best we possibly can. Even now, I want things to be better than they already are. We are always working on ways to make our sauces cleaner and tastier and looking for ways to streamline our mise en place so that it is more efficient.
‘And who knows? When you push yourself, you might just surprise yourself and discover new flavours or techniques which can take the diners’ experience up another level.’
This focus on ‘elevating’ ingredients drives much of the team’s commitment to pushing those boundaries.
‘We all know classic flavour combinations and cooking techniques but the nature of our work is that we don’t want to do the same as everyone else or put out things that customers expect,’ said Callum. ‘We want to be original and, to an extent, be pioneers and visionaries.
‘If you take an ingredient like the humble onion, for example, you need to think about how you can elevate it, treating it with the same respect as you would a cut of meat or fish. Often, when chefs come in and see the way that we work with vegetables, it is really enlightening for them because of the techniques we use with vegetable preparation.’
With planning and preparation key to the kitchen’s success, nowhere is this exemplified more than in the beef raviolo starter which features on the Taste Jersey menu.
‘I think this will be one of the standout dishes on the menu,’ Callum said. ‘It uses the Jersey Angus beef, which has an incredible flavour.
We take the short rib and brine it for 24 hours before marinating it in red wine for a further 24 hours and then searing it and cooking it in beef sauce for 24 hours.
‘After that, we pick the meat and combine it with a beef mousse and a few other ingredients to form the filling of our raviolo, which is then served with barbecued hispi cabbage purée, sauerkraut and a lovely, light beef jus.’
The Jersey Angus beef is just one of many locally sourced ingredients which Callum is excited to showcase in this year’s ‘mini á-lacarte’ lunch menu.
‘Inspiration for dishes can come from anywhere,’ the chef reflected. ‘Sometimes it’s a colour from a sunset that I see while walking along the beach which triggers an idea, while sometimes it’s an ingredient that I forage while on one of those walks.
‘For Taste Jersey, though, a lot of the ideas have come from the suppliers with whom I have formed relationships over the past few years.’
And as his thoughts turn to the produce which will be in season for the gastronomic festival, there is one ingredient, in particular, which he is excited to showcase.
‘The number-one that you have to talk about at this time of year – drumroll, please – is the Jersey Royal,’ he said. ‘There is already a lot of excitement about the first harvest of these, so no one will be surprised to know that this will feature on one of the main courses, accompanying a roasted rump and braised lamb dish which really captures all the flavours of spring. It will also be the opening course on our Signature Tasting menus.’
While the Jersey Royal may get star billing in Callum’s eyes, he is also quick to highlight the quality of local seafood, something which features in both the starters and main courses.
‘Jersey seafood is really spectacular and, while the shellfish often attracts the headlines, we are going to showcase some of the flatfish found in local waters,’ said Callum.
On the starter menu, the fish coming under the spotlight is black bream, which is served with purple sprouting broccoli and an almond and oyster emulsion.
‘Then, for the main courses, we are using skate, which is a beautiful fish and one which perhaps isn’t eaten as much as it should be,’ said Callum. ‘We are serving ours with a black garlic purée, a beurre noisette, brown shrimp, hazelnuts and – hopefully – some Jersey asparagus, which should just be coming into season.’
Another dish highlighting a locally grown vegetable is a beetroot-based starter featuring the produce from Manor Farm.
‘This is a really exciting vegetarian dish,’ said Callum. ‘We bake the beetroot in a salt crust and then dice it so that it looks like a tartare. It is then mixed with a beetroot and hibiscus gel, dill and shallots before being presented in a beautiful ring with a sourdough tuile and a horseradish sorbet.
‘There are lots of interesting contrasts within this dish, not just with the flavours and textures but also with the temperatures, as you go from the room temperature vegetable tartare to the freezing-cold sorbet.’
While Callum and his team are no strangers to going out and either foraging for local ingredients or meeting the farmers and fishermen responsible for supplying their kitchen, this year Bohemia is giving diners the opportunity to join them by heading out in a range of behind the-scenes culinary experiences.
‘After a couple of years in which Covid has really hit hospitality and impacted Taste Jersey, we are really excited to be coming back this year with a bonanza of events to complement the dining experience,’ said Callum.
Among these is an experience in which diners are able to join a chef’s tour of the markets, meeting some of the producers whose ingredients feature on the menu before heading to Dunell’s for a Pink Granite Gin aperitif and then going back to Bohemia for lunch or dinner.
Alternatively, for those who are happy to get their feet wet, there is a chance to join a forager to source items which they then give to the chefs to feature in their meal.
‘This is a great opportunity for people to discover just how many ingredients are growing on our seashores,’ said Callum. ‘We use foraged bronze fennel in one of the Taste Jersey desserts – a classic lemon tart, which is flipped on its head and served with fennel, citrus Sippin Gin and a yoghurt sorbet.’
If going out to obtain the ingredients to feature in your meal sounds too much like hard work, another experience features a wine-tasting session combined with a tour of the Bohemia kitchen.
‘In this experience, our sommelier selects three white and three red wines and we prepare a selection of canapés to complement the drinks,’ explained Callum.
Along similar lines, budding mixologists can enjoy a cocktail masterclass run by Bohemia’s food and beverage manager, Dimitri Marqueteau. After learning to make some delicious tipples, guests can relax and enjoy the results of their endeavours, while also sampling some canapés from Callum and his team.
And, with Taste Jersey running over Easter, the team has devised a special two-week afternoon tea offer, showcasing offerings from head pastry chef Lukasz Aniol, who has recently joined the hotel.
‘Embracing the Easter theme, there will be some hot-cross buns and scones, as well as some chocolate-orientated treats on the tiered stands,’ said Callum. ‘Lukasz is tremendously creative, which ties in perfectly with our approach of pushing boundaries and using seasonal produce to maximise the potential from every ingredient.’