Ich Bin: Lee Bull, head chef, Q Grill


With Chalk Farm Road restaurant Q Grill celebrating its first anniversary, and a new menu just launched, we meet the down-to-earth guy at the helm



Lee Bull: ''
Lee Bull: ‘What has my career taught me? That it’s only cooking and you can’t please everybody.’ Photo: DMR

When were you happiest?
When we opened our first site, the Fish & Chip Shop on Upper Street; that was a very happy and proud piece of my life.

So what converted you to a life in the kitchen?
I was never that interested at school, much to my mother’s disappointment. I was told by a teacher that if I didn’t work harder, I’d end up being a chef. She was bloody right.

How did you start out?
At the Ivy in 1996, when the kitchen was full of big characters. It was said to be a very tough kitchen, but I loved it. Des Mcdonald was my head chef; he’s still my boss 20 years later.

Flat iron steak. Photo: DMR
Flat iron steak. Photo: DMR

Tell us about being at the helm of Q Grill since it opened.
It’s been a great year getting to know the locals. Camden has a worldwide influence with a real range of customers, very different to what we have done in the past. We’re very proud of this site so come and say hi. I’m the short fat one wearing dodgy trainers.

What dish are you most proud of at Q so far?
With the style of food we do it would be a pretty bold claim to say we created it; most dishes have been done before in some way shape or form. Our slow-cooked pig cheeks with smoked cheddar grits and charred leeks is doing some damage right now on the menu.

What was your biggest disaster in the kitchen?
Mark Hix sent me to South Africa to open a restaurant in 2003. It was a complete nightmare, we had about five guys in the kitchen who didn’t know the difference between a grape and a melon, and I nearly gave it all up and went back to school on my return.

Where would you like to live?
Kentish Town. Although I actually live in Essex; that will always be home.

What is your favourite smell?
Freshly cooked pastry on a Sunday morning.

What is your greatest life achievement?
Winning menu of the year, when I was head chef at Scott’s.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
It’s not very long at all. My daughter is 13, and it feels like she was born last week.

Open Kitchen at Q. Photo: DMG
Open Kitchen at Q. Photo: DMR

What simple thing would improve your quality of life?
Sleep.

What’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
I want a divorce.

What has your career taught you?
That it’s only cooking, and you can’t please everybody.

What is your favourite dish and why?
The steak tartare at Holborn Dining Room. I need that at least once a week.

What can readers expect from the new spring menu then?
We’re trying to take all of the healthy aspects of barbecue and make them as tasty as possible. We use minimal sugar and processed products in our rubs and sauces, but still employ traditional smoking methods. We source the best products,as we did at Scott’s and Le Caprice.

Describe yourself as an animal.
A bull, a small bull. What else?

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Find Q Grill at 29 – 33 Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AJ. Its new menu launches this week. Read our original 2014 review here

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