Following his win of a Good Food Award for the third year in a row, we caught up with The Hampton pub’s head chef and general manager, Geo Bassani Lima, to discuss his inspiration, favourite ingredients and plans for the future.
How did your cooking career begin?
In 2008 I arrived in the UK and within five days I was working in a kitchen. My first job was in a Brazilian restaurant in northwest London called Ilha Brazil – born and raised in Porto Alegre in south Brazil, I was doing what I knew how to do. I trained with Young’s/Geronimo’s Inns, where the focus is on training and development and I had the opportunity to work with some very talented chefs. After my training was complete, I was offered a job with the Young’s/Geronimo’s Inns group. Two years later I was a head chef, and in 2014 I took on the task of transforming The Hampton into a foodie destination.
Which chefs have most inspired you, in terms of both your career and cooking style?
I worked with a chef named Jon Memmott during my time at Young’s who was a great inspiration to me. We are still good friends and he is always there when I need advice. I also enjoy Gordon Ramsay’s cooking – without the swearing. His enthusiasm for food and his obsession for delivering high quality dishes are things that I admire, as well as his ability to help people transform their restaurants into customer-focused establishments.
Since your career began have you received any accolades?
At the beginning of the year, I was named one of the top 50 chefs in the country at the Parliamentary Pub Chef of the Year 2016 competition, in addition to making it into the top 20 in the Young Chef of the Year category, which is open to chefs under the age of 30.
The pub has been acclaimed for its Sunday roast, including being labelled the best value for money by Totally Richmond. We have also won The Good Food Award for 2015, 2016 and 2017. Only 34 other restaurants in the UK have achieved this, and we are the only gastropub in the area to do so. I’m currently the only Brazilian chef to have held this award for three consecutive years.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love working in the pastry/desserts section of the kitchen – putting a south-American twist on traditional recipes to create desserts that have the wow factor is how I enjoy spending most of my time.
Overall, I love being able to provide an outstanding experience to all guests. Having a customer coming to the pass and thanking me for their experience is the most rewarding part of my job.
What’s your most memorable cooking experience?
My grandmother taught me how to make my favourite sweet as a child. However, the sugared doughnut dish is named cuecas viradas, which literally translates to ‘twisted knickers’ in English. Imagine the task I had trying to explain to other chefs that it was going to be good enough to include on our menu. I will never forget the delighted look on their faces when they tried them.
What are your hopes for the coming year?I have a baby on the way with my wife Laura, so there will be a big change to our whole lifestyle. I hope to receive further accolades in the industry, including my first AA rosette, which would be an amazing achievement and recognition for all the hard work my team puts in at The Hampton.
In a few words, how would you define good food?
You can tell when a chef has put time into a dish by its taste and presentation. When I look for a dish on a menu, I want something wholesome, which has been well seasoned, tasted throughout its production and presented with an individual style. Overall, I want something that shows the chef’s passion.
How to go about choosing suppliers?
I chose my suppliers based on the quality of their fresh products. I try to use local produce as much as possible – this way I can support other local businesses. I’m willing to pay a fair price for reliability and accountability for all orders.
As a chef, what is your favourite time of year and why?
It’s definitely winter. This is the time of the year that ingredients such as venison, scallops, mussels and monkfish are at their best and I enjoy using them all on my menus. It’s also a time when passion fruit is available – my favourite seasonal ingredient. I love its tropical flavour, it can be used in so many dishes and garnishes and it always provides a burst of bright colour on the plate. I like to make passion fruit cheesecake, served with a winter berry compote.
Here’s the recipe: