He’s worked in some of the UK’s finest hotels, alongside the best chefs, was cookery tutor at Betty’s Tea Room’s Cookery School and was instrumental in setting up the prestigious Northcote Cookery School. Now, chef Michael Vanheste has turned over a new leaf, taking a tea company in a new direction.
The Belgian-born cook has had quite a career but is now working with tea sommelier, Bernadine Tay, founder of Quinteassesntial.
“The first tea I ever tasted was from Taylors of Harrogate, but being continental, I always preferred coffee. When I tasted Quinteassential’s I was blown away,” said Michael, who left Belgium at 21.
He found himself in the UK working all hours under the sun as an events manager and confesses that he fell into cooking through his own desire to up his skills in the kitchen.
“I worked that much that I survived on chicken and bacon pasties and Uncle Ben’s rice. The type of food I ate was embarrassing so I decided to learn how to cook at home – and then to become a chef!”
He worked at Betty’s Tea Rooms as a cookery tutor, before joining Northcote Manor, where alongside Nigel Haworth he was responsible for developing and opening the School.
“The kitchen was incredible and learned quickly how to design course material. Northcote gave me an understanding of luxury, everything was done at an extremely high level – from picking suppliers to grading ingredients. The attention to detail was impeccable,” said Michael.
He left to go onto The Gaddum, in the Lake District, helping them to launch the café before taking some time out to travel, taking in the sights and sounds of Venice, Switzerland, Italy and Thailand.
Now working alongside Bernadine, the duo plan to expand their range of nine teas to 30 signature blends – as well as educating people about tea and its benefits.
“Very few people take time out of their lives, to stop and be mindful. Making a cup of tea not only focuses the mind, it makes you stop. Tea also gives you a boost and has many superpowers,” said Michael, who said Imperial Earl Grey is his go to.
“It has more finesse and the flavours are subtler. It has such a s beautiful mellow flavour.”
Asked how to make the perfect cup of tea, Michael advises: “wait until the water stops bubbling in the kettle until you pour It over the bag. Once poured, wait 3-4 minutes, then remove the bag gently, without stirring or squeezing it. Then add milk and sugar, depending on your taste.”