It's mid-November 2013, another beautiful clear sunny afternoon and I`m sitting just off the coastal path in Kato Paphos with Rob Shipman (Executive Chef at the Almyra & Annabelle Hotels in Paphos). We talking about what how he came to be in Cyprus, his samurai style knife, his big twist for lamb souvla and much more. Some is below, but be sure to watch the video too.
Rob also kindly provided one of his favourite 'quick lunches' for you to try out at home !
What inspired you to become a chef?
I guess two reasons really, a mixture of passion and necessity. Passion part, when i was 6 years old, my mother taught me how to make apple pie, I used to cook quite a bit when I was a kid, so was interested in cooking from quite a young age. The necessity part, in my early twenties i was in a heavy metal band, and whilst I was professional musician, I wasn't earning enough money, so I took a job as a cook and that is when it all started.
Where else have you worked before Cyprus?
Nobu London, Hilton Japan, a number of other restaurants around London.
Chef's Recipe : Pan Fried Steak & Salsa
Ingredients : Steak1 large T-Bone Steak (600g)
Sea Salt (to taste)
Black Pepper (to taste)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Ingredients : Garnish1 Tomato (Cut in half)
3 Mushrooms (Cut in half)
½ an Avocado (Peeled)
A hand full of rocket leaves
1 lemon (Cut in half)
Ingredients : Salsa1 Tomato (blanched, peeled and chopped)
1 Red Chili (chopped)
1 clove of garlic (chopped)
¼ Red Onion (chopped)
1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Dash home in your afternoon break, swing by the local butcher to pick up one large T-Bone steak and a few veggies…. High tail it home… Run into the kitchen. Put the kettle on, put one tomato in a bowl and cut the other one in half. Put the bowl with the tomato in the sink. When the kettle boils pour all the boiling water over the tomato and count to ten. Open the cold tap and let cold water run over the tomato for 2 to 3 minutes to cool it. Next peel the tomato, chop it and mix with remaining salsa ingredients. Get a large fry pan very hot on the stove add oil, the steak the halved tomato and the mushrooms. Cook it as you like, in my case it’s rare. For a large steak like this it takes about 3 minutes per side.
Put the steak on a large plate and garnish with the cooked vegetables, avocado and salsa add a glass or two of your favorite red wine. You could also have a few condiments close to hand. For example Dijon mustard Worcestershire sauce, tobacco etc.
What three words best describe your restaurant?
Creative. Entertaining. And 'Personal Touch'. creative part is because, I always like to be creative, thinking outside the box, to be creative with the concepts and menus. Personal touch, I like to meet a lot of the guests, to talk with them and give a personal experience, its very important in the restaurants. Entertainment, a good restaurant needs a bit of theatre, I like to do things at the table, not just the food, there is a story. When people go out, they want to be entertained, if they just want food, they would stay at home.
Keep it simple, also, its important to learn that you have to understand rules before they can be broken. That is my philosphy. The cuisine I do, its not classic nor traditional, I would think its creative & modern, but I don't like the idea of doing something new for the sake of being new. When I create, I dig deep into traditional recipes to understand why they are they way they are.
What keeps regular customers coming back?
Smile. A smile is very important, and giving people personal experiences, to make them feel cared for, to do things especially for the guest, I think that is what keeps people coming back.
Most useful tool in the kitchen?
The most useful tool, for me, its my Honyaki, the forge technique used for Samurai swords - valued at €1500. Its sharper than anything you'll find anywhere, and i use it for sushi & sashimi - its the business !
What was the most satisfying plate you have prepared?
Would have to be something very simple. Probably my sushi, i've got a sea bass sushi with truffle oil, lime juice and sea salt.
Proudest moment in a kitchen?
At Nobo London, about a year after the kitchen opened, i was executive sous-chef and it was a very proud moment when we won the Michelin star. For all the team, a very proud occassion.
Current food fashion?
I know that more and more people are thinking about health from food, I don't like to say its a fashon as such, but 'food synergy' is being more and more talked about over the last 10 years. In Greek, it means, working together, so in food, we talk about items that when combined have a powerful helath benefit on the body, things like, tomatoe and brocolli have anti-oxidants & reduce risk of cancer. Oats and orange help reduce cholesterol. Also spinach and lemon, whilst lemon enhances absorption of iron, so we then absorb 8 times as much iron as found in the spinach.
You leave on a spaceship tomorrow, what is your last meal?
I guess for me, I love soup ! It'd be an oxtail soup, a big chunk of oxtail, brazed for hours to be soft and tender so its falling off the bone. On top, an Italian white truffle sliced as thin as paper, with a ridicously expensive bottle of wine to wash it down, something like a vintage 1969 Cheval Blanc !! That would wash it down very well.
Favourite Cypriot food?
Village salad! When you have the juice sitting at the bottom, i just love to dip the bread in it - the simple things !
Outside the restaurant?
Oil painting, recipe websites, cartoon animation, I used to be a drummer but sold the kit many years ago, so now I do music production using Apple Garage Band, program the drums, sequence it all - a one man band !
Social media and the like
The great thing is its easy for people to find good places to eat out, however the bad thing is the comments aren't always accurate ! Its interesting how social media works, just last week i had a famous model in the restuarant, we had a picture taken together and it was shared there and then to her 18k followers. So the social media today, it just makes everything accessible to anyone, so generally it is good with a bit of bad.