With a love of all foods local and a passion for work, chef Francis Baumer is spreading his enthusiasm to all comers. 

“I’ve been cooking 35 years – I still bounce out of bed to go to work in the morning.”

It’s quite a statement. But chatting to Francis Baumer, head chef at Bournemouth’s Urban Beach boutique hotel, his passion for his work is abundantly evident.

A promising career in fine dining came to an end when he lost the sight in his right eye almost 30 years ago, but his enthusiasm endured and he is now on something of a “crusade” to pass on his love to the next generation.

“My first head chef was at Alexandra House, which is a pretty high end country house hotel,” Francis remembers. “I had articles in the Telegraph and Times, but that’s a past life. I had to step down from fine dining and go more rustic. It’s a totally different field.

“My goal now is training youngsters. I’m seen as someone who can take people and ignite a passion in them – you want to give them a passion for the job that they’re doing.”

Francis has been heading up the kitchen at Urban Beach – part of the Urban Guild group which also includes Urban Reef on Boscombe seafront and Jenkins & Sons in Penn Hill – for the past four years, having previously worked at 1812 in Bournemouth and at The Langham Armsin Tarrant Monkton. Urban Guild is known for its fondness for local, seasonal produce, an ethos particularly close to Francis’s own heart.

“Food for me has to have a connection,” he explains. “Whether it’s local ingredients, or through a traditional English dish, there should be a connection – it should all be about tasting and flavour.

“I’ve been doing local food for about 18 years. I don’t use any fine cheese any more – there’s always an alternative that’s made in this country.

“We used to have nachos with guacamole. Ispun that round – we have British nachos, with hand-made crisps. We replaced the salsa with a beetrootsalsa, a pea and mint guacamole and replaced sour cream with horseradish sour cream.

“That would sum up what I’m trying to do. Risotto – I use peal barley because it’s an English grain, but we do it risotto style. We have cuttlefish, which is exactly the same as squid, it’s just a little bit firmer, and we don’t use tuna or king prawns.”

Francis updates the core menu every three months – the latest one runs from April to June – and encourages his young trainees to experiment with their ideas on the specials board.

“I think that’s very important,” he explains, “you’ve got to bring their love out. If they can work with something you can guide them. It’s not about me – I’m just there to guide and teach them.”

In addition, he will amend the eaterie’s dedicated vegan menu – the first to be introduced across the Guild – in line with the main offerings.

“It is particularly popular,” says Francis of the vegan selection.

“There’s quite a few people that are not vegan that will eat off it. I will try and elaborate on it with a couple more desserts.”

The sweet selection is something Francis has garnered a bit of reputation for in the local area, particularly for his sticky toffee pudding. But he has firm ideas about what works best.

“Crème brulée – I believe it should always be vanilla with a vanilla bean,” he smiles, “it’s something that’s simple and perfect. “But your aim is to work out ‘how can I improve this?’

“It’s making something, then trying the first bite – that’s why I do this.”

Urban Beach, Argyll Road, Bournemouth

T: 01202 301509

W: www.urbanbeach.co.uk