The food at The Torridon has always been of the highest quality and it is now in the care and attention of a new Head Chef, Jason ‘Bruno’ Birkbeck. Bruno’s world revolves around food and its creation and the roots of his passion, some would say, genius, lie within his family background. Bruno, now 31, grew up in Kendal. His father was brought up on a farm in Appleby and while he was later town-bound, he managed to fit in hay making and tending his allotment. Bruno’s mother worked in school kitchens for many years, as a private housekeeper and in a Kendal wine shop.
“Mother baked a lot. My brother and I only ever ate home-cooked food. She would buy a whole lamb or pig’s head and use the whole carcass. We learnt the value of good food.”
At school Bruno enjoyed cookery and at 16 went to Kendal College where he attained NVQ level 2 in catering.
His first work experience was at the large Shap Wells Hotel, near Shap. “The hotel specialised in catering for coach tours so that meant getting lots of dishes out on time. I learned discipline there.”
He also spent part of his course at a hotel in Switzerland and then at the upmarket Langdale Hotel and Country Club. David Rodgie, the Langdale’s Head Chef, offered Bruno a job. Bruno stayed two years but at just 20 was already seeking the next challenge.
He sent his CV, unsolicited, to the world-famous five star Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire. Bruno showed the team what he could do and landed his second job.
His next move was to Lancashire’s Northcote Manor, Langho, under Nigel Haworth. “I started as a chef de partie on the sauce section and worked my way up through the ranks, eventually becoming sous chef. Northcote Manor shaped me.” It was here that Bruno met his fiancé Emma, who is a talented pastry chef. They have worked with each other ever since and form a great team.
While he was at Northcote Bruno won British Young Chef of the Year 2001. This changed his life and standing in the industry but his triumph was coloured by great sadness.
“Just before I won the title father died. After his death I just wanted to be nearer home. I moved back to Kendal and went to work for the wonderful Chris Meredith at the Samling Hotel near Ambleside. We worked so hard there acquiring a Michelin star and making it a three rosette establishment.
When Chris left, Bruno decided to move on too. Hipping Hall was Bruno’s first job as head chef and was a big risk; if the venture failed he would have to start again further down the ladder. For 4 years Bruno built up the kitchen and was awarded 3 rosettes for his dedication and hard work.
Bruno has joined The Torridon with great ambition. He, along with Emma and the team, provide breakfast, lunch and dinner plus special occasion food to the highest standard seven days a week. His work involves constant checking that every dish is the best it can be. Working with local suppliers, Bruno is amazed at the superb produce available on our doorstep such as langoustines and scallops that he has never seen so fresh.
Bruno’s friendly and professional attitude has meant that he has fitted straight in at Torridon. There is a real buzz and excitement about the hotel and staff. The food coming from the kitchen is exciting and innovative while still focusing on the goal of simple things done very well. We hope that all our guests like the change as much as we do.