Chef Profile April 2019: Ben Cochrane, trainee chef, Shu restaurant, Belfast
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO COOKING?
My first job was working as a kitchen assistant at Orchards Cookery School in Bidford-On-Avon. This was a great first step into the world of hospitality and gave me a hunger to become a chef. I was inspired by the local produce I could get my hands on and what I could create. I love seeing a dish come to life.
HAVE YOU ANY CULINARY QUALIFICATIONS?
I am currently studying for a City and Guilds Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Professional Cookery at Belfast Met. I attend college two days a week then get hands on experience working at SHU restaurant on the Lisburn Road for the remainder of the week.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN THE TRADE?
Working in Orchards Cookery School was a great place to start and just fuelled my desire to progress further in the hospitality industry. I went on to work for two seasons in Val D’Isère, France as a chalet host which involved cooking all meals for upwards of 14 people. I then returned home and applied for the apprenticeship programme at Belfast Met which presented me with the opportunity to work in SHU.
HAS ANYONE INSPIRED YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
My brother has always been very supportive of me and has played a key role in fuelling my desire to work in the catering industry. Although not a chef, he has a real flair for cooking and creates some fantastic dishes. My dad’s cousin is the well-known local chef Paula McIntyre so you could say cooking is in our blood!
WHEN DID YOU JOIN YOUR CURRENT VENUE?
I have been working at SHU Restaurant since September 2018.
WHAT STYLE IS YOUR COOKING?
Before I started working in SHU, my style was quite casual, bistro food. However, since working in SHU, I have refined my style and adapted my cooking to suit the fine dining menu we deliver at the restaurant. I recently had the amazing opportunity to travel to India and take part in a cookery competition. This was my first time doing anything like this and I’m proud to say that out of 50 participants worldwide, I came 22nd. I was only 1.7 marks from getting into the final. I am hoping to utilise some Indian cuisine influences in my cooking – maybe a fusion for the future.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
Northern Ireland produces some of the finest ingredients with outstanding flavour and taste so local souring is something that I feel very passionate about. Our farmers and producers are dedicated to traceability and passionate about quality so it’s really important that as chefs we are seen to be supporting them.
WHAT SIZE IS YOUR STAFF?
There are 10 staff at SHU including Brian McCann the head chef and another apprentice from my Belfast Met course. We work on a rota basis so I have the opportunity to learn skills from the very talented team of kitchen staff.
WHOSE CAREER WOULD YOU WISH TO EMULATE?
Working under Brian in SHU has really inspired me. He has had a fantastic career to date and tells some amazing stories. I would be more than happy to follow in his footsteps.
HAVE YOU ANY INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF WORK?
I love outdoor sports and am quite adventurous. When I can, I enjoy winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. I also play football once a week.