From the influence of nature through to fairy tales, Netflix and morning mantras, we sat down for an inspiring chat with chef; Martyn Meid, who is also one of our brand ambassadors. Having begun his career in the kitchens of his hometown Klaipeda, a small fishing port town in Lithuania, Martyn Meid was adept at cooking seafood and fish, as well as curing and pickling to preserve the summer produce throughout the cold winters. This influence is prominent throughout his cuisine, combining his passion for Nordic techniques and flavours with continental ingredients.
Your dishes have a distinctive look and flair, where do you draw your inspiration?
I am mostly inspired by different textures, patterns and visuals. Be it a film still, a fabric, an art piece or even the texture of a leaf. I feel nature and its appreciation plays an important and crucial role in everything I create. It can be delicate and bright during one season and yet rough and dark during the cold period. Nature tells its own alluring story and I try to stay in tune with it at all possible times.
What or who influences your cooking?
My cooking is heavily influenced by the cycles of nature, textures and visuals. People also play an important role. My first teacher was my grandmother, who taught me how to appreciate various ingredients and use them to your advantage. I also enjoy working with my fiancée, who is very attentive to detail in a completely different, creative way; following the news and trends of all cultural worlds, soaking up new ideas, whilst also taking inspiration from old films, magazines and books. She knows all the latest openings and even what chairs people are using in their restaurants. Lately, I have been enjoying some projects online such as Vice’s Munchies and Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Social media can be really useful in terms of influence too – it is now easier than ever to see and follow what other great chefs are doing in their kitchens across the globe – René Redzepi travelling around the world with his loyal team, Virgilio Martínez pickling all the potatoes unseen to me, or Esben Holmboe Bang neatly and tirelessly working at Maaemo in Norway.
How has your cooking style evolved?
As I get older, I realise that to me cooking is not about hiding under unnatural colours or flavours but about the simple, fresh and seasonal use of ingredients, adaptation and different tastes that complement each other in a new and constantly evolving way. I have always had this in me, the ideology of only using what is natural and adapting it to the season but now I am in constant search of these new combinations and adjusting them by only using natural methods of cooking. I used to burn most of my ingredients and still do, but now I am more drawn to steaming and using open fire to get the final result in the form of a dish.
As a fan of curing, pickling and smoking, do you have any advice on how readers can experiment with these techniques at home?
I believe that fermentation and curing are only now making their way to everyone’s attention in the UK. We live in a world of technology and a one-click-buy market, so people can discover these techniques by reading books, such as; The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, or by following the story and ideology of chefs, such as Magnus Nilsson at Fäviken in Sweden.
Where has your passion for in season produce come from?
My full respect for nature and its cycles comes from my family and its roots. I grew up in the west part of Lithuania, Northern Europe, by the sea and just across from Sweden so our nature and its seasons are pretty similar to those of Scandinavian countries. Our natives use the same techniques of cooking – fermenting, preserving, curing and pickling. The lack of resources in the 20th century resulted in my grandparents and family members appreciating these traditions and developing them. As I do my best to express my thoughts, beliefs and ideas through food, I believe it is important to respect these values and carry them through life with me. To me, showing my gratitude to nature and respecting it; means following my traditions and, in a way, staying honest to myself. Staying happy.
What are your favourite cooking techniques and why?
Preserving, steaming, burning and slow cooking. These techniques help enhance the flavours in the most natural way possible. It is mixing and matching these with each other and playing with them that keeps me on my toes and wanting to discover and do more.
Any tips for creating stand out dishes at home?
Firstly, create something that tastes great to you. Try techniques that do not modify the original products too much and use in season produce, freshly purchased from a market. Get creative and, even I would say, bold. Cooking and eating is one of those experiences created using our physical energy and that alone can completely change the tone, appearance or taste of something you cook. Lately, a lot of people have been following the world of fairy tales. Alice in Wonderland is practically no longer for kids, so use that, remember a song, or a fairy tale, get inspired by a film, a story, or even a memory.
If you had to choose only one appliance to cook with, what would it be?
I love using the steam combination oven as it does not change the initial quality of the product or modify it too much. It is easy to use and look after, even though I probably use it every day.
We understand that you want to celebrate the true beauty of ingredients – what tools help you create enticing dishes?
The tool that has played an important part in my creations lately has been a vacuum drawer that I use for a variety of things such as fermenting, slow cooking, pasteurising, compressing and ageing, as well as emulsions, essences and various other consistencies. It is easy to use and experiment with. I do not think there are many products left in my kitchen that I am still yet to vacuum.
Who are your cooking heroes?
I have a lot of them due to these great people being so different to each other and motivating me in such different ways. I have ones that teach me consistently and others for inspiration, ones for motivation and others for undiscovered techniques. There are true heroes such as Yannick Alléno, Frédéric Anton, Virgilio Martínez, Heston Blumenthal, René Redzepi and André Chiang – the list never ends.
Do you have a mantra that sets you up for the day?
To those closest to me, I am known as the one who enjoys the sunrise every morning a little too much and it really is good enough for me. I also tend to never look back and try to move on from the negatives of the day, taking only the positives forward.
What has been your career highlight so far?
I owned a restaurant in East London, INK, and that was something. Then, I closed it almost three years later in 2016 and that was a learning curve. Other than that, I have been lucky enough to have the possibility of cooking with my own heroes, with the ones that make me enjoy that sun too much.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
I can only hope to be a much wiser man with even more grey hair! Honestly, I believe that in 10 years, I will be a man with even more passion for cooking and love for food. Experimenting in my own kitchen, inviting the ones who are interested to join my food journey, to taste it and to sit down in my new establishment, which will definitely be more personal and inviting than any of my projects in the past. I want to be a man with even more eagerness to progress. Constant progress is my ultimate plan.
If you have a night off, where do you enjoy eating?
It might sound bizarre, but I am not that fussy about eating out. If it is a burger that I paid up to £10 for, I will eat it like a burger that is worth that much. If it is a restaurant that advertises itself to be ‘the next big thing’, I will naturally set my expectations higher. My partner is the one always suggesting these new, exciting places. For me, it is more about discovering new, unseen techniques of cooking and new ways to appreciate ingredients. I am more about getting to know the different cultures and stories of people through their food and drink.
When you are not cooking, how do you like to spend your time?
Going on long, meaningless walks – in a way, that is my meditation, the only time I zone out. I usually go on walks, listening to new music created by my favourite producers such as Simon Green, also known as Bonobo. I am also a family man, so spending a day in my own kitchen and sharing a meal with my family where everyone discusses how their week has been, or reading a book, or watching a film always sounds good. Other than that, travelling and spending time foraging and fishing is something that I find excitement and comfort in.