DANIEL ANGELINI meets a man who knows a thing or two about steak – the kitchen manager at Swindon’s successful Miller and Carter restaurant

JUGGLING dozens of orders in the hot and hectic open kitchen of a bustling steak restaurant can be stressful, but Miller and Carter’s kitchen manager Laurentiu Branisteanu (‘Lory’ for short) is used to working in such a high-pressure environment.

He started at the 266-capacity restaurant when it opened in June this year after undergoing months of specialised training and spending several years cooking up a storm in several other restaurants all over the world.

Lory said: “It’s a real challenge. We serve more than 150 people most evenings and have a turnaround of 300 people on Friday and Saturday nights.

“In the middle of a busy service we have up to 50 steaks cooking at once and don’t have time to check on every one so we have a computer system which times how long each steak has been on the grill, when it was ordered, and how long it’s been on display.

“We treat the steaks with so much love that they relax and are nice and tender, they reach their full colour, which brings out the best taste and marbling.

“We cook different steaks on different parts of the grill - rare, medium-rare, cooked, half-cooked - and use different trays for them.

“All the fat on the grill falls into the fire and smokes the meat, which keeps the moisture in.

“It’s all about the love of steaks and how to bring out the best in steaks, this is a destination for celebration.”

Steaks of all shapes and sizes sizzle on Lory’s gigantic grill, but there’s one he has a particular fondness for: “My favourite steak is an 18oz rib on the bone. It’s an amazing cut best served medium-rare or medium, with marbling and fat made up of two muscles, and it has a really nice taste, especially with a peppercorn sauce.”

After a long career in cuisine, he’s now passing on everything he’s learned to his team of six chefs.

He said: “I’ve been working for many years in this industry at several different restaurants - Italian, Chinese, on cruise liners, fine-dining - all high-volume with high-quality fresh products.

“I teach and train top young chefs using skills and techniques from all my previous experiences, it takes time to reach this level of quality.

“I use an old-school method to test toughness, a five-finger control point, just briefly touch the meat and compare it to the toughness of each finger pressing against my thumb.

“Your index finger and thumb has a different pressure to your middle finger and thumb pushing together, for example.”

Even an old professional like Lory is still learning new things about food.

He said: “I had to attend ‘Steak School’ for three months. I saw how the cattle go from farm to fork, learned how to choose the right cut of steak and the right heat and strength of the grill, met the farmers, went to the abattoirs, saw the joints in these massive freezers, understood wet ageing and dry ageing, and how they’re sent to us from English farmers with a ‘passport’ so they’re all traceable.”

When Miller and Carter customers give good feedback about their meal to the chefs or waiters, they ring a bell in the kitchen and the team cheer.

This ringing was a regular occurrence when the Adver reviewed the steakhouse and the chefs were very grateful for the enthusiastic response their cooking received.

Lory said: “It’s great how people appreciate us, that bell goes crazy in the evenings, especially Thursdays when we have our ‘Dinners And Dates’ set menu.

“Swindon is a big town and there are so many options for eating out but people still love it here and come back.”