A conversation with Lee Bye from Tuddenham Mill
At Further Afield it’s not just about beautiful and welcoming places to stay. It’s also about finding places that offer amazing service, places where each element of that service is carefully crafted and executed. Tuddenham Mill in Suffolk, with its stunning rooms and award-winning restaurant is a perfect example.
This time we meet Lee Bye, who was Head Chef at Tuddenham Mill before becoming its Chef Patron. Brought up in the Fenland countryside, he’s passionate about East Anglia – its pace, beauty and incredible produce. We found out a little bit more about this inspirational chef.
How long have you been at Tuddenham Mill?
Five years. Four of them as Head Chef and one as Chef Patron.
Did you train professionally or on the job?
I did the traditional route. I went to college one day a week and did a three-year apprenticeship. This enabled me to get a balance between understanding the workplace and being able to adapt, whilst still studying ‘in the classroom’.
What are your key areas of responsibility at Tuddenham Mill?
Ensuring our guests are wowed by the food when they visit and that we have a great place to work as a team.
What makes the ingredients in this region so special?
In the county of Suffolk we’re really lucky to have a deep connection with our producers and the ingredients it has to offer. The pork is always celebrated and rightly so – it, for me, is the best in the UK.
An example one of Lee’s four course autumn chef’s menu illustrates the use of local, seasonal ingredients: Roasted roots, Morbier cheese, alliums / Pigeon, Victoria plum, malt, aster leaves / Hawstead wild fallow, celeriac dauphinoise, bramble fruit, chard / English pear, woodruff syrup, walnut mousse, sesame
As a chef, who or what do you take inspiration from?
No question, Simon Rogan. Understanding your surroundings is vital for any chef in what he or she puts on the plate. Simon is the best at this in our country and I have always taken huge inspiration from this approach.
You’ve achieved an incredible amount already. What would your top tip be for any chef starting out?
Begin with a chef who will educate you about the industry and who understands you as a person. It’s vital that the respect is shared – learning from this point is a lot easier. As you move on in your career, I’ve found the best advice has been to invite pressure and remain out of your comfort zone.
Who are some young chefs to watch (other than you!)?
Luke French who cooks at JORO in Sheffield. I think he’s an great example of a chef who’s embracing his surroundings and showcasing it through food.
Where would your last meal be?
Watsons bay, Australia. With my family.
You’ve now got a family – what tips do you have for getting kids to eat vegetables?!
Give them very, very small amounts to allow them to taste it rather than eat it. Doing this every day will improve the likelihood of them eating it once they have tasted it.
You’ve said that you like nostalgia in cooking. What’s your earliest food memory?
Tea and rich tea biscuits…. I still love it
Brussel sprouts – yes or no?
Yes – preferably roasted with lots of bacon and butter.
The working day of a chef is well known to be long. How do you relax in the spare time you have?
I try to eat well on my days off and be around my family. That’s always a good way to switch off….