At Bramble Ski we continually strive to blow our guests away when they come on a catered ski holiday to the Alps. Every facet of the holiday from the smallest of details is given our full attention and care, and, at the helm of all food that is prepared and served out of the chic chalet kitchens of Verbier and St Anton, is our executive chef Gerwin Brand.
Inspired like many passionate foodies by the influence of family get-togethers, he affectionately remembers Sunday lunch visits with his grandmother. This inspiration steered his drive and Gerwin left school knowing exactly what he wanted. He attended culinary school in his native Holland and simultaneously worked as an apprenticeship in various restaurant kitchens forging the groundwork for his career as a chef.
After gaining experience in his first Michelin-starred restaurant in Holland, Gerwin moved across to Ireland working for a stint in the Allen family’s Ballymaloe House before crossing the channel to work in London at Clarke’s. He then went on to work for Michel Roux at The Waterside Inn in Berkshire, where as demi-chef de partie patissier he developed his reportoire and skill in pastry.
But it was under the tutelage of Raymond Blanc at the two Michelin-Star Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons that Gerwin obtained his largest chunk of experience. Here he further developed his style for clean fresh dishes and was heavily influenced by Le Blanc’s desire to use quality local produce and ingredients.
“Raymond Blanc’s vision, enthusiasm and drive is revolutionary. The passion that this man has is blowing most other top chefs out of the water. To have had him as my mentor is a fact that I will be forever proud of,” says Gerwin.
“What I took away most of all from working at Le Manoir is to always question things, and to keep checking for quality all the time. The dishes on the menu are scrutinized daily and as soon as there is an element that is not at its peak anymore it will be replaced with something that is in top condition. That drive for perfection is inspiring. And despite the huge success he has, he has stayed a very down to earth man. Brilliant.”
Over the four years at the renowned Oxfordshire establishment, Gerwin was promoted from demi-chef de partie to sous-chef. When he left, Gerwin made a complete change and moved to the Alps to take up the first executive chef position at Richard Branson’s then brand new mountain retreat The Lodge. We were fortunate enough to have Gerwin join us at Bramble Ski last year to further raise the bar of our sumptuous catered offering.
Gerwin’s meticulously hard-working ethic is exemplified in yesterday’s performance at the New York City marathon, his first marathon attempt. He completed the race in an incredibly fast time of 3.05 hours. We wanted to know a little more about the man behind the machine …
BC: What is your favourite herb?
GB: This is a really difficult question for me. I love herbs, there are so many of them and they all have their very own specific flavour. I would find it hard to have to choose a specific one, but there are a few that stand out.
Tarragon is one of them. With its beautiful anisy flavour it goes well with a lot of ingredients: cucumber, fish, lamb, chicken and even strawberries and rhubarb. Another is oregano. I just can’t get enough of this one. Its flavour is just so unique and for me it’s the one and only herb that makes a great pizza. A nice thin dough, just a plain tomato sauce, freshly chopped oregano and proper buffalo Mozzarella, like life should be, beautifully simple.
And the last one for me is woodruff. Sadly, this herb is not very well known at all. It is also known as bedstraw, as in the early days it would be used to stuff pillows and mattresses so that they would smell nice. Woodruff is very high in an essential oil called coumarin, which has a sweet smell, but actually tastes a bit bitter. The flavour is vanilla-like and therefore woodruff is mainly used in desserts and drinks.
BC: What piece of equipment can you not do without in your kitchen?
GB: Without a doubt my chef’s knife. I see it as an extension of my hand and I guess that’s saying enough about its importance.
BC: If you were on death row (we won’t ask any questions about how you ended up there), what would your final meal be?
GB: Boeuf Bourguignon with buttery mashed potatoes, pan fried cêpes, bacon lardons, caramelised baby onions and Romanesco broccoli. And for dessert warm sticky toffee pudding with a royal dollop of Champsec cream.
BC: What is your favourite comfort food?
GB: You can’t beat a proper fish ‘n chips with fresh crushed peas.
BC: What is your favourite hangover recipe?
GB: Yeasted blueberry pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and a big glass of fresh orange juice.
BC: What is your favourite local food product?
GB: The race d’Herens beef. It’s just so flavourful. It makes a great steak, or stew or tartare.
BC: What is important to you in your kitchen?
GB: Space to do the job. In one of my jobs I worked in what must have been the smallest kitchen ever. The floor space was two square metres, and the biggest part of that was a hatch down to the cellar where we had additional fridges and a freezer. A nightmare if you had to go down there mid-service . . . Still we managed to turn out some pretty decent food, but it was far from ideal and it limits you
in what you can do.
BC: Finally, and most importantly, where do you head to in Verbier on a powder day?
GB: I moved to the mountains for a complete change a couple of years ago and now find it hard to see a life without them. I’m still a developing skier but one of my favourite places to head to after some decent snowfall is Stairway to Heaven. The terrain there is really fun and varied.