Rob's Country Kitchen
Ladies and Gentleman, The King of Fried Chicken, Chef Robbie Barrington Symes!
I recently headed down to Rob's pop-up "Rob's Country Kitchen" to try out his delightful menu.
Rob puts his menu up online through his Instagram page. You simply direct message Rob your order and the time that you would wish to collect your food. It really is as easy as that!
On pulling into the location I noticed some chairs spread out under outside lighting with candles as well as a paying desk (which is card only) together with hand sanitizer for customer use.
Not long after our arrival, out comes our order, the delicious smell filled my nose instantly and I could not wait to start eating.
I ordered the RCK special burger with fries along with some fried chicken strips. DELICIOUS! I loved Rob's recipe and devoured everything! One thing I will say, make sure you are hungry when you arrive as Rob's portions are by no means small! The fried chicken was crunchy, juicy and I loved the flavours from Rob's secret spice blend on the fried chicken strips. I can easily say the fried chicken burger is one of the best and most delicious that I have had. The combination of ingredients and seasoning is perfectly on point.
I have been following Rob for a couple of months now. His Instagram is fun, light and provides his followers with "Recipe of the Week" which is great fun to watch. Going to pop up's like this gives you the perfect opportunity to support and meet local chefs like Rob and try something different. I would highly recommend a visit to Rob to anyone in the area.
I decided whilst I was visiting the pop up it would be a great opportunity to do a Q&A with Rob, see our session below.
What got you into the food wold?
I grew up in South Africa and food was always something that brought people together. It did not really matter how much you had, where you were from or what colour your skin was, everyone just used to meet up for a braai and support each other while eating amazing, fresh food. I think for me it showed that there was always a really strong connection with the community through food and in my family. I decided that I really wanted to be able to bring people together through my own cooking.
How long have you been in the industry?
I finished a degree in Agriculture and Business Management in 2016 and went straight to cooking college in Devon for 3 months, so I would say that I have been in the hospitality industry either training as a chef or salesman and working for 4 years.
Where did you train?
After university I used all of my savings to put myself through a 3 month intensive cooking course in Devon called "The Ashburton Chef's Academy". This was absolutely vital to starting my cooking career. It gave me all the relevant food safety knowledge and certificates to enable me to get work as well as providing me with all the basic cooking skills and information on the laws of food.
Where have you previously worked?
My first job after cooking college was at a mountain restaurant in the Alps called La Grande Ourse, Mont Chery. It was a really small kitchen but we did a huge volume of covers during the day and then more private, fine dining events in the evenings. I learnt so much over this season and felt like my learning was accelerated whilst working in this restaurant.
On the back of this experience, I got a job at one of London's top "grow your own" restaurants in Clapham "The Dairy" before moving to Galvin Restaurants in the summer of 2017. I moved between restaurants at this group starting at Galvin Bistrot Deluxe, moving to HOP and finishing my time with the group at Galvin La Chapelle which still has 1 Michelin star to this day. Finally I opted to move away from London with the desire for a slower pace of life to an organic farming company called "Riverford" that delivers veg boxes to peoples doors.
I worked with them from the autumn of 2018 right the way through until this October as a demo chef at shows and festivals as well as doing some face to face sales.
What is your favourite cuisine to cook?
Although I love cooking fried chicken, and I really do LOVE fried chicken...I would get a telling off from my family if I did not say that cooking over an open fire and taking my time is my favourite type of cooking. Slow smoked whole animals, earth baked yams and potatoes and some charred buttery greens. For me, you just cannot beat that connection to the land and to the food that you are cooking. Part of the enjoyment and is having family, friends and members of the community to share and enjoy the feast with.
Stay tuned for this sort of thing from RCK 😉.
Any places you love to eat and would recommend?
I have not been in Kent long but before the second lockdown I got to check out a few places. My top recommendations are:
Both of these places were amazing but The Curious Eatery really spoke to my African Soul with their simple, interesting dishes which were packed with flavours from my childhood. The chef, Nicole, was also so welcoming and took an interest in me and what I am currently doing, so a HUGE shout out to them.
Who is your favourite chef and why?
There is a Canadian chef, Matty Matheson, who I first heard about while working out in France. He is a hilarious, a larger than life character who did a TV series called "Deadset on Life". The main reason I connect with him is his love for food, his desire to connect to people through his cooking and his lesser fair attitude to life in general. I would love to meet him one day to have a beer and maybe smoke a brisket or two!
What was the inspiration behind Rob's Country Kitchen?
RCK was born from the perils of lockdown! I was no longer able to do my previous job at Riverford so I started working as a delivery driver for them. I decided to do the occasional pop up from my parents home in Oxfordshire and began my "Recipe of the Week" videos which feature on my Instagram account. People seemed to enjoy the videos and it certainly brought the community together, so I carried on. After a while I thought "what if I set up a platform, like air bnb, for cooks and diners to be able to connect in the same way that I am through my pop ups in their local areas."
That is when I moved to Kent to start the company and RCK would act as the proof of concept business on the platform.
Is RCK here to stay?
Yes! Hopefully, there will be many others popping up soon. I plan on running a pop up every second week either from here or from the Tonbridge Old Fire Station in town. The main idea is to connect with other struggling, out of work chefs as well as establish pop ups, supper clubs or private chefs to create a community of fantastic food businesses like mine which any keen foodie can book onto and pay for in their area.
What can we look forward to from you in the next year?
I am hoping to refine the pop up a little and make the food even more delicious before doing some more marketing and promotion for it to drive more local people to come and try what we have to offer.
We are looking to move to a slightly more suitable venue when the pandemic eases, however the home kitchen does the job for the meantime and I am finding it is actually quite a nice novelty!
Most importantly, I will be teaming up with other fantastic cooks and chefs to help their businesses, give them visibility/cohesion and give Kent the best food connection and culture in the UK!
It was great to hear Rob's story and I am excited to see what happens with his venture in the New Year I will certainly be back to try more of his food. As previously mentioned you can find Robbie on Instagram under the tag @robbiesymes1.