It’s not every day that you get invited to compete against the best chefs in the business at a nationwide competition, but one chef from Newport has done just that.
Lyndon Bradford is a junior sous chef at Bacaro, a restaurant on the outskirts of Newport, and has recently become a finalist in the Pizza Chef of the Year competition. What’s even more surprising – for Lyndon as much as anyone – is that he has only been working as a professional chef for the last 18 months. Until very recently, Lyndon, originally from New Tredegar, was head bouncer at a local nightclub and had been working as a bouncer for more than 10 years.
Experimenting with food
“I’ve worked in restaurants, on and off, since I was about 18. I’ve always loved cooking and baking,” admits Lyndon. His imposing stature – ideally suited for the nightclub door – mellows instantly when he begins talking about food and his voice demonstrates a genuine enthusiasm when he explains why he chose a relatively late career change. “Since I started working here, 18 months ago, I’ve been given a lot of creative freedom to come up with new dishes and it’s really gone from there.”
The 35-year-old acknowledges that creativity is his main motivation and perhaps his willingness to try new things has been the driving force behind his success as a chef. This was also his reason for entering the competition, in which he has already won the South West and Wales regional heat with his pizza recipe: smoked cheese, yellow pepper sauce, Roquito chilli peppers and prosciutto ham.
When not competing in competitions, Lyndon’s day starts by making a batch of pizza dough – enough for around 20 pizzas – and baking fresh focaccia bread. He says that for most of the day he is then busy preparing the fresh ingredients such as meat, fish and vegetables in his capacity as a sous chef. When he gets the opportunity, he begins to experiment seeing which tastes and flavours work best together. It’s not all fun, he admits, “with experimentation comes cleaning”, something Lyndon says he dislikes. However, he says this with a broad smile and a wave of his hand and you expect that he enjoys every part of the job, even the cleaning.
Recognition for great food
“We work in an open kitchen, so we can see the customers. If you can see someone is enjoying their food, who then comes passed to say thanks; it’s a great part of the job too.” It’s here that the social skills learnt over many years come to the fore and it is apparent that interaction is as important as the invention.
As he looks forward to the final of the competition he allows a brief moment of self-praise, “If I won I wouldn’t stop bragging”. His winning pizza is soon to become a regular on the restaurant menu and is sure to be a popular choice. Modestly, Lyndon adds, “The secret is…keep it simple with not too many toppings.”