Meet the Chef: Ali Altuntas, Culpeper’s Restaurant, Chilston Park Hotel
What led to you becoming a chef?
I have known for a very long time that I have wanted to be a chef; even from a really young age, it has been what I have wanted to do. When I was younger and at school we had a chef come in and visit and as soon as I saw him I knew that is what I wanted to be; I saw him as a ‘captain’ figure. I remember going home and telling my mum “when I grow up I want to be a chef”.
Where did you train?
I am originally from Ankara in Turkey, so my training began back in 2002 at Sabanci lisesi College in Marmaris. I was lucky enough to gain invaluable experience working underneath and alongside a number of talented chefs, particularly Ismail Kaya who was the head chef at the time at a prestigious restaurant in Turkey.
Where have you worked before Chilston Park Hotel?
I have been able to expand my skills and knowledge throughout my culinary career working at a number of impressive establishments including The Windmill in Hollingbourne where I began as a senior sous chef before working my way up to head chef at Oakwood House in Maidstone and then at Chilston Park Hotel, Lenham. I am grateful and have been fortunate enough to develop my style of cooking into what it is today where I am inspired by working with local produce and unique flavour combinations.
Why Kent and Culpeper’s Restaurant?
Kent is well known as The Garden of England and Chilston Park Hotel is nestled amidst such a picturesque landscape where guests are able to create lasting memories, and I get to be a part of that. At Culpeper’s Restaurant, I am able to take the guests on a culinary journey like no other, curating a menu that celebrates the best of local and seasonal ingredients. My biggest achievement to date is without question being appointed as the head chef at Chilston Park Hotel.
Tell us about the dishes and menu you have created at Chilston Park Hotel?
I enjoy using seasonal local ingredients to create delectable starters, mouthwatering mains and exquisite desserts. At Chilston Park Hotel, we see each dish as a masterpiece of flavours, textures, and artistry, creating a modern dining experience for all guests no matter what the occasion. Being able to create menus with passion and precision embracing all dietary needs is what drives me. My ultimate goal is to hold a three AA rosette restaurant within the next five years.
What is your signature/favourite dish?
Tricky question. I enjoy switching up the menu and items in certain dishes to challenge and push myself because I strive to provide the very best experience. I am always keen on pairing new foods and sampling different combinations of flavours. However, that being said, I do really enjoy cooking modern Mediterranean dishes. It’s hard to narrow down one favourite dish because I have a couple that are on the menu at the moment; the miso chicken and baby leeks with Parmesan, tarragon gnocchi and sherry caramel, as well as the crispy lamb rump with smoked aubergine mousse, butternut puree and blackberry jus are both incredible.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Back home in Turkey I have some land around my property which I use as a sheep farm. When I return to visit friends and family I love to walk around the grounds with the sheep. There is one in particular that is unusually friendly; Sultan the sheep is fed one too many biscuits by my brother and now, every time I return, he runs ahead of the flock expecting his next biscuit. Chilston Park is surrounded by 73 acres of land and much of that has sheep grazing which fondly reminds me of home and Sultan.
Ali Altuntas’ Beef Wellington Recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes at 180 degrees
20 g dried porcini or shiitake mushrooms
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
230 g center fillet of beef, trimmed
2 cloves of garlic
1 red onion
250 g mixed mushrooms
Olive oil, optional
1 heaped teaspoon English mustard
1 x 320 g sheet of all-butter puff pastry
1 large free-range egg
1 large free-range egg
1 mug semi-skimmed milk
1 mug self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
100 g baby spinach
1 shallot, diced
180ml beef stock
60ml double cream
Sit 340g fillet of beef roasting tray brush with 1 Table spoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper and seared whole side around 5 minutes then chilled for 20 minutes ideally in blast chiller.
While beef is cooling, chop 250g Chesnut mushrooms as finely as possible so the have the texture of course breadcrumbs.
You can use food processor to do this, but make sure you pulse- chop the mushrooms so they don’t become a slurry.
Heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil and 50g unsalted butter in a large pan and fry the mushrooms
On medium heat, with one large spring fresh thyme for about 10 mins stirring often ,until you have a softened mixture, season the mushroom mixture pour over 100ml dry white wine and cook for about 10mins until all the wine has been absorbed. The mixture should hold its shape when stirred, romove mushroom duxelles from the pan to cool and discard the thyme.
Over lap two pieces of cling film over a large chopping board lay pancake strips and spread with duxelles and wrap around the fillet on the cling film, use cling films edges to draw the pancakes around the fillet then roll in the sausage shape ,twisting the ends of cling film to tighten it as you go.
Chill the fillet while you rolling out pastry.
Dust your work surface with a little flour. Roll out a third of the 500g pack of puff pastry to 21cmx 16cm strip and place on a non-stick baking sheet .
unravel the fillet from the cling film and sit it in the center of the smaller strip of pastry.
beat 2 egg yolk with 1 tsp water and brush the pastry’s edges ,and the top and sides of the wrapped fillet.
Glazed all over with more egg yolk and put lattice layer of puff pastry brushed more egg yolk and chill 30 minute up to 24 hours ideally 24 hours.
Brush the wellington with little more egg yolk and cook until golden crispy – 25 -30-minute medium rare beef 30mins medium. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving in thick slices.
Carve and serve as you like either with gratin potatoes or fondant potatoes and vegetables with peppercorn sauce.
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