In the kitchen with Chef Will Bee
Cooking is an art form, and for the artists that create their dishes, years of trial and error and graft go into the process. For many chefs, their rise to top of their game is a long-term investment. However, for one of the best young upcoming chefs in the country there is no need for waiting patiently to reach the top. Will Bee wants to take the culinary world by storm, integrating an ambition vision of art, fashion and music into his dishes. With 7 years of experience in the professional kitchen already, the 21-year-old chef has major aspirations that challenge the established traditions of the fine dining kitchens and restaurants. The Guide sat down with him to discuss his vision, background and inspirations, which all have been crucial on his journey so far. Furthermore, one of his own unique recipes has been included in this edition and from every edition onwards, a new unique recipe from Will Bee will be included.
What is it about cooking that drives you?
‘Like any other chef it is the general buzz and intensity that you get from a busy service that really fuels the fire, but mostly it’s the self-fulfilment from making every customer happy from the food I produce. Nourishing is our job and that is what is most rewarding.’
How did you become involved in the culinary industry at such a young age and why?
‘From the beginning my mother has been a big part of my progression; home cooked meals every night showed me the power of fresh food. Along with stories my father reminds me of, his mother would bake all day, every day, making the house constantly smell of fresh scones and all other types of bakes. I started hands on very early at primary school where I would attend an afterschool cooking club which then progressed into competitions and events that I would later excel in. My first job in the kitchen was a pot wash at the age of 14, however it didn’t take me long to get transferred into the kitchen where I really started to learn the culinary lifestyle. The long hours and the intense working conditions have never intimidated me, and I think this is why I have managed to continuously progress into bigger and better roles in the kitchen. I never knew it was going to develop into being my life’s work but I’m unbelievably grateful that I stuck with it as the benefits are incredible.’
What are your biggest influences in your dishes and the way you cook?
‘Perfection. I know that I will never reach it because it is not possible, but as long as I always strive for it I can come pretty close to it. I have always swayed towards the fine dining aspects of cooking with the high levels of refinement and the quality ingredients are an indulgence in itself. However, the more I experience different levels of cooking it has become more apparent to me that I want to provide high quality food without the formalities of a sophisticated restaurant. In my opinion customers will enjoy the food more when they are in a relaxed and familiar environment. The most important factors that you have to think about are the senses when it comes to cooking. It is the collective verdict from these that truly set apart the good from the great which included the tangible and intangible resources that create the whole experience. Ideas do not just come from anywhere, some sort of inspiration is needed in order to create a major dish, with those that have a great story behind them being the most successful.’
What impact do you want to make in the cooking industry?
‘With the industry being so broad it is hard to make a strong impact that will continue to be used after my time. For me it is more about the people I work with and the customers I serve. If I have the opportunity to progress someone and have a positive impact on their lives then it’s a job well done. Living in fear of someone who is more of an established chef than you will only lead to bad things, so if I manage to create a full team of chefs that are on the road to being better than me then I have made that impact that was required of me for the next generation.’
What is the long-term goal and how do you plan to go about achieving that?
‘Of course, having a restaurant is the end goal for me, with making it a creation of my own and being able to showcase all the things I love in one creative concept. Before all of that I need inspiration and evidence of concepts that work, ones that do not, so that when it comes to going solo, I can hit the ground running. The journey to the end goal should be just as fulfilling and with it being such a passion of mine it is hard not to enjoy the grind.’
Who inspires you within the cooking world and also from other industries?
‘As I am just at the start of my cooking career, I expect my style to change frequently, but so far I’ve taken inspiration from the likes of Grant Achatz, Reni Redzepi and Dan Barber. The idea of creating confusion through the senses to help customers really enjoy the food for what it is and not what they think it is, is an achievement in itself. Dan Barber’s current movement of farming for flavour has really caught my attention, so much so that I decided to write my dissertation based off of his findings and aspiration to change the worlds farming procedures for the better. These are the sorts of impacts I wish to make when I get the chance to.
For a long time now, my biggest idol has to be Action Bronson, although he isn’t a high-end chef, he still is my main inspiration. A rapper and a chef? Could life get any better?
When it comes to the way I cook I look up to Thomas Keller, of the French laundry in Yountville CA. His philosophy of the chef’s life is truly warming, and I do not just look up to him as a chef but as a human being.
But most recently over lockdown, Chef Tom Brown of Cornerstone is killing it, as him and his team are creative geniuses. I can see him doing big things in the future.
'Fashion and music are very important factors in my day to day life, and aside from chefs there are many other influencers in my life. From the likes of A$AP Nast from the A$AP mob, Jordan Vickors who is part of the new DJ collective New Found Form (NFF) to the old timer that never takes his foot of the pedal, Pharrell Williams. I remember when I used to sneak into my brothers room while he was at school, slap on the “she wants to move” vinyl and have it playing alongside Snoop Dogg and Pharrell “drop it like it’s hot”, fading in and out of each other, it’s a good job no one was at home to listen to this.’
What is your process when creating a new recipe?
‘In the process of creating new dishes, I always aim to create something that has not been done before, either by using unusual pairings, or new techniques to showcase the product in its best light. For me, it is very entertaining and rewarding when you can create a dish that people have high doubts about, to then be blown away by the time they taste it. Obviously that cannot be done every time as it would be very time consuming but even just an element of that in a dish can set it apart. Most of the time a dish will never be how you imagined it first time round, so being surrounded by the right people and mentors helps a great deal to assist in developing your dish to the next level. Everyone has something to share with you, but it’s up to you to get out there, obtain and utilise those moments.’