Meet the new chef at OPEN in Norwich, Andrew Baker, who is introducing fine dining at the Grade II listed building in the heart of the city
Who are you and where do you work?
My name is Andrew Baker and I’m Head of Catering at the OPEN venue in Norwich. Here I provide a high quality private dining experience, conference catering and also run a café. The profit from all of these ventures goes to the Open Youth Trust which provides activities such as performing arts, climbing and music all aimed at promoting mental health and wellbeing in young people in Norfolk.
How long have you been there?
I have only been working for the Open Youth Trust since June, however, through my previous job, I have been using their kitchen and providing catering for conference clients for more than 12 months.
Where were you before?
I was Hospitality Catering coach delivering the Flourish programme for The Feed, a project of LEAP East CIC and I also taught at City College, Norwich, Hotel School.
Where did you train?
I trained while working for my family run restaurant The Cromer Grill under my dad’s
guidance and attended City College, Norwich, where I gained my City and Guilds as well as my NVQs and Assessor qualifications.
Who has inspired you?
From an early age, I was inspired by my dad, watching him work hard in our family restaurant providing for his family as well as his devotion to food.
Recently I have worked with many local suppliers and chefs who have rekindled my passion for local produce with a network consisting of Coxfords Butchers, Proudly Norfolk, Bread Source, Brown May, Mr Fruity, Nurtured in Norfolk, Wild Knight Vodka, Norfolk Gin, Norfolk Quail, Norfolk Saffron, Crush Foods and Charlie Hodson, to name a few – it makes you proud to be in Norfolk.
One chef I have worked with and coached recently is Rob Sampson. His experience and passion for food and life have helped me develop both as a chef and as a person.
What is your favourite ingredient?
I love all food, but if I must choose it would be lamb from Bull Farm in Felthorpe. It’s my all-time favourite.
Got a favourite gadget?
I recently purchased a sphericator but not really had chance to use it yet. For those who don’t know what this is – simply put this is the culinary process of shaping a liquid into spheres which visually and texturally resembles caviar or pearls. However, my favourite gadget is a Global knife which was a gift from a student I coached.
What is your signature dish?
September marks the start of apples so a nice Bramley apple pie or if I was to choose seafood, mussels with a saffron and garlic butter.
What do you like doing when you’re not cooking?
I volunteer on the SOS Bus and help to provide a safe haven for those who find themselves in a vulnerable situation in the city centre on Friday and Saturday nights – when I’m not volunteering I enjoy spending time with my family.
Where do you like to eat out in the region?
My favourite place would be Richard Bainbridge’s restaurant, Benedicts, in Norwich.
What would you be doing if you were not a chef?
I would be lost! I’m not sure that I’ve ever thought of anything else as since watching my dad in the kitchen at the age of five.
What’s your foodie prediction for the coming months?
I believe with changing times that a collaboration of Norfolk produce will be vital and customers will be looking for more sustainable local produce on menus.