The young chef trained by Gordon Ramsay serving Michelin-star inspired food in pub pop-ups

Lee Skeet serves 20 covers a night single-handedly

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Indy Lifestyle Online

No matter how fancy your local boozer, it's unlikely you'll find amuse bouche of braised cornish duck in shredded pastry or herb dashi with squid noodles on their menu. But that is exactly what Lee Skeet, who started his career with Gordon Ramsays at Claridges, is bringing to pubs and bars across the country with his imaginative self-titled pop-up restaurants.

With an impressive list of fine-dining mentors - including Nuno Mendes, the Portguese head chef at Chiltern Firehouse in London and Juan Adamor, the three-starred Michelin chef behind Amador in Mannheim, Germany - Skeet turned his back on stuffy dining in 2014 to focus on his one-man-restaurants which showcase his love of Cornish produce.

Since then, he has brought high-quality six-course taster menus at a hardly unreasonable £40 a head to venues across the country, including in Cardiff and London. Next on his list is the Brew Dog in Cardiff, where he visted in the late autumn.

The Independent caught up with Skeet to ask him why he and his girlfriend's more humble venture over the glamour of celeb-chef kitchens.

What do your pop-ups involve? 

I do them all myself with my girlfriend, Emily Weaver, as front of house. We limit it to 20 covers each night. It's just me in the kitchen, everyone has six courses and that’s all I can manage.

You have worked with some top, upmarket chefs. Why did you turn to the casual world of pop-ups? Brew Dog is about as casual as you can get!

I'm just not into fancy dining. I hope my food is the same standard, and I think I’m cooking better now than I was when I was at those places. 

I’ve certainly kept my work ethic. Working alone is a lot more difficult and that mentality of working hard is the number one thing that I’ve keep.

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Skeet (right) enjoys a beer after a pop-up session with business partner and front-of-house manager Emily Weaver, and chef Connor Diamond who will be working at Cardiff Brew Dog. ()

What can diners expect at the Brew Dog pop-up?

Brew Dog is more of a bar than a restaurant it’s pretty relaxed. Emily is the front of house, and she keeps it really professional but approachable. But at the tables are set up nicely and we keep the tasting menu format. I like the contrast between the tasting menu and the fine wines and the Brew Dog beer flight which is matched with every course. People get this really special meal that you wouldn’t normally get in a venue like that. 

What is the secret to recreating Michelin-star inspired food in an informal setting, say in the home? 

Unless you’re going for the best produce you can afford you wont get good results. It doesn’t need to get the most expensive, just the best quality. What we try to do is nothing too fancy, we don’t mess around with too many techniques. It depends on where you live.

In the countryside, the best produce is outside your window. I literally drive up to farms and ask them about products, and they’re more than happy to tell you about it.

The best ingredients are ones from the smallest producers that you might not have heard of. The duck I get is the best quality I've ever had, and it's just from a guy and his wife. And when you're cutting out the middle man, it’s not expensive. In London, the problem is getting top quality fish like I was used to in Cornwall. So I got in touch with companies in St Ives, like Celtic Fish Supplies, who will courier fish for free, and it's cheaper. At home, you could buy £30 at at time, and freeze it. 

If you're on a budget, which ingredients are worth investing in?

Ingredients-wise, a good example is beef. What you get at the supermarket is nice but if you go and get some beef that has dry aged for a long time it’ll blow your mind. So many people have said to us 'I don’t like mackerel' but that's because they've had crap mackerel that has been sitting around for a few days. We get it from it straight out the water and I hope how I cook it does it justice. If you can find a good supplier to trust with fish you give yourself a chance of making something amazing. I also use Cornish sea salt, and good quality olive oil. 

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The upcoming menu at BrewDog, Cardiff

How do you come up with your menus? 

Everything comes from Cornwall, but the menu changes every pop-up we do - except for the first Brew Dog pop-up in Cardiff where we showcased the best of our menus. I feel we have the best produce in Cornwall, so everything we take up to Cardiff or London is from local producers down here. 

I try to do interesting pairings that people don’t normally have. I don’t do it for the sake of being wacky. I want to give people something different to what they've had before. For example, we are doing beef and oyster which isn’t what people have that often have in Cardiff but because we have such good quality beef and good quality oysters.

I just want everyone to really enjoy themselves when eating and find the pop-up relaxed and accessible. And if after we do a pop-up and everyone's had a good time and enjoyed then we've succeeded. 

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