Ben, Orri’s Chef, joined the team just a few weeks ago – but he’s already stirred up much enthusiasm in the kitchen!
We sat him down and discovered the inspiration behind the apron. Below he shares his love of leftovers, near-dessert disasters, and offers a glimpse into his work with our Senior Dietitian, Paula.
Being a chef for an eating disorder clinic is quite a unique role. What was it that made you want to join the Orri team?
I think it was the unique-ness I was attracted to! I have always loved talking to people about food as well as making it, which is sometimes difficult to do being a chef in a restaurant kitchen. At Orri you get to directly interact with the people you’re cooking for, exchange ideas, perspectives and educate one another. To be a part of someone’s recovery is an immense privilege as well as an opportunity to practice compassion and learn more about the full scope of attitudes towards eating, which as a chef, is very important!
How would you describe your style of cooking?
I would describe my food as eclectic, intuitive and comforting. I love making simple food that uses amazing ingredients to their full potential. I take inspiration from around the world (especially Asia) and try to intertwine that with familiar classics that we all know and love. My favourite way to cook at home is looking in the fridge and coming up with new and exciting ways to use leftover ingredients by turning them into something completely unexpected and new. I often find when you have a limited choice of ingredients it can force you to be the most creative because it requires you to use ingredients differently in order to replicate other things that you might be missing, resulting in a dish that is completely new.
What is it that made you want to become a chef?
Watching endless amounts of YouTube videos and Jamie Oliver. I used to spend all my time watching recipe videos online and I quickly realised the only way I would be able to eat what I was looking at was if I got up and made it myself. I started working in restaurants as a waiter at the age of 16 and made the decision then that I would continue to work with food as much as I could.
What I love most about food and eating is the ritual around it, whether you’re at home or in a restaurant we tend to eat around people. We share conversation and discover new parts of one another which you might never reveal in another setting. Even if you go out to eat alone just sitting and observing that is a wonderful thing.
What’s your favourite food/meal and why?
I think this question is incredibly mean, but I would narrow it down to Asian cuisine. I’ve traveled around some of Asia and love the sharing, middle of the table eating style – it’s incredibly informal and all about big, comforting flavours that make your heart sing.
What’s been your most memorable moment so far since working at Orri?
I haven’t been at Orri long but there’s been a few moments/meals where everybody looks entirely relaxed and comfortable. People with eating disorders can often find mealtimes very tense or overwhelming, but to have moments where people are talking openly to one another, laughing or enjoying the music is truly lovely to see.
Have there been any culinary disasters?
Nothing too dramatic but I did almost forget to make my dessert on my first day so had to quickly enlist the help of my kitchen assistant, Luke, to run out grab the ingredients and make it for me about an hour before serving which was a little stressful to say the least!
How do you interact with our clients and ensure they feel safe around mealtimes?
I interact with them in the same way I do with anyone else – compassion and care. I always try to be friendly and make an effort to meet each individual to make them feel seen and respected. During mealtimes I try to make the kitchen area feel as relaxed as possible and open conversation up when it’s appropriate. Sometimes I think it’s nice to emphasise the social experience of the meal so that it doesn’t just become about food, so some music and a bit of shoddy dancing can help!
What sort of special diets do you cater for?
All sorts – vegans, nut allergies, coeliac, nightshade allergies and so on all the way to more niche requirements like certain textural difficulties or restrictive meal repertoires whereby people have only eaten a small number of meals throughout their lives. There’s a balance to be had in those sorts of situations – you want to give them something that they can eat, but at the same time provide them with an opportunity to work towards their goals for recovery, which may involve helping them move outside of their comfort zone. Ultimately that’s the reason why they’re at Orri!
What sort of requests do you receive from clients?
Again, a mixture of things really! Anything from requests for adjustments to meals, certain dishes they like having at home, or even the odd song request. I’m always open to suggestions and keen to hear what everyone likes and enjoys.
Our clients have unique needs and tastes, how do you work alongside Senior Dietitian, Paula, to cater to them?
Paula will give me information on the specific requirements of our clients, and I’ll come up with something that mirrors it and supports them in their goals for recovery. As I said, it’s about striking balance between offering them something they feel comfortable eating that’s also an opportunity to take steps forward in recovery, while at the same time being delicious!