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Head Chef Kai Fleetwood Shares a Few Secrets

Kai is head chef and co-owner of Bawtry's latest eatery Bawty's Pizzeria and Steakhouse. The newly renovated restaurant, styled to a unique Reykjavik inspired industrial chic decor serves a menu of freshly cooked, locally sourced steaks, pizzas, burgers, sharers and much more.

How would you describe Bawtry’s Pizzeria and Steakhouse and the vision behind it?

A laid back restaurant: Beautifully decorated with a relaxed atmosphere. Claire (mother and joint owner) and I want to create somewhere where you can pop in for a quick bite or spend the evening with us for a special occasion and feel the same level of welcome no matter what. The food is completely fresh, with an ever increasing set of skilled chefs joining us. The food will he kept within the grill/smoker/pizza theme but will be full of surprises along the way!

What does a typical Saturday look like?

Busy! From the start it’s all go! As an experienced chef once told me, “the hardest part about our Saturday mornings are that they follow a Friday night”! All of the lads and I are in from the start, prepping for the evening and looking after our lunch customers! Claire and Matt (our brilliant General Manager) will be making sure everything is in order and’s Saturday night!

Where do you find inspiration?

Talking to people. Cheffing is a job I think people find interesting. Whenever people find out that’s what I do, they’re always keen to discuss food, restaurants they’ve been to, things they enjoy cooking and I make sure I listen. Many times I’ve had ideas based on something someone said they like from an American place they’ve been for example.

So how do you add creativity and make dishes your own?

Lots of tweaking, tasting and patience! I enjoy taking a dish, and re arranging its ingredients: adding bits or taking bits assay, just to see what we end up with. When we start smoking meats at the restaurant, there will be all sorts of recipes involved, and a lot of them took over 6 months for me to get them just right!

What is the biggest challenge the industry is facing and how does it impact your business?

In my opinion, the only challenge a new restaurant has to take on is developing customer loyalty. We need to make sure that we deliver great service, great food and a great experience every time someone walks through that door! Because there are more restaurants than there have ever been now, with more choice at competitive prices. So a restaurant needs to make sure the customer comes first, something we will always do!

What trends/developments in the industry today are you especially excited about?

Restaurants these days are going fully digital/online with everything they do. Online ordering, social media interaction etc...and that is something we will be embracing fully. We have great social media representation in Lime Social who are doing a great job in growing our accounts by the day and I look forward to seeing the further developments of our online presence.

What is your best advice for aspiring chefs?

Learn how to handle being busy...when you become successful you’ll need to know! I started in a very, very busy restaurant serving quickly prepared meals (500+ covers per day some weekends) and then worked my way into the world of fresh produce restaurants. I am so glad I took that route, because it taught me how to be busy! It was quick, relentless but it prepared me to always be organised and manage my time in a kitchen well plus to be able to cope under pressure. I believe that to be invaluable experience.

Favourite restaurant?

The Whippet Inn in York is a personal favourite of mine. It’s a steak house, brilliantly quirky and the interior is fantastic! What do you like to cook at home? As most chefs will probably testify, I don’t cook an awful lot at home. My good lady Christie tends to take care of that for us. She’s a great cook! I do make a great Sunday roast though so I like chucking one of those together every so often.

Best place for a foodie holiday?

Recently we went to India for a couple of weeks, the food out there is something else! I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys spicy, flavourful food and is willing to give anything a try.

Guilty food pleasure?

Proper fish and chips! We’re blessed with several very good chip shops around us, and if I’m in the mood for some then nothing else will do at all!

Describe your cooking style in three words?

Relaxed, precise and creative.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

We also have a pub just round the corner from the restaurant; The White Hart. It’s a sports pub where we show all the live football etc, so if I wasn’t in the kitchen you’d find me on the bar there. It’s my other favourite place to be!

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