Karl Green, the Head Chef at The Unruly Pig in Suffolk, brings a wealth of culinary expertise and passion to the table.  Born and raised in Ipswich, Karl trained at renowned establishments such as Hintlesham Hall, The Crown, Stoke by Nayland, and the Michelin-starred Midsummer House. We chatted to Karl about The Unruly Pig’s culinary philosophy, staying inspired and what’s next:

How has your journey been from starting as a Sous Chef to now leading the kitchen at Unruly Pig? 

When I arrived at The Unruly Pig, I said I would give it a couple of years. Almost 9 years on, I am still here and that very fact is probably the greatest testament to The Unruly Pig and our fabulous team. The journey has been very hard, certainly inspirational, but hugely enjoyable and rewarding.

We are all so proud of what has been achieved collectively as one team. When the owner, Brendan Padfield, first started us on our Unruly Pig journey, he set us the task of making us one of the best restaurants in Suffolk. I still regularly pinch myself that we have been named Number 1 UK gastropub (twice) and that for the second year running we have made the National Restaurant Awards. We are in such auspicious company and that makes the whole team so very proud and humbled.

Could you share some of your most memorable experiences or lessons learned during your time at Hintlesham Hall, The Crown, and Midsummer House?

Learning lessons is a continuum! I learn something new most weeks particularly as my managerial responsibilities continue to increase. It’s fascinating and enjoyable now to have a hand in the strategic direction of the business. Prior to joining The Unruly Pig, probably my best and greatest memory is noting the absolute leap in culinary standards when I started at Midsummer House. It was a highly disciplined kitchen brigade that operated to impeccable standards and implicitly still does having retained two Michelin stars for so many years. That has not happened by accident.

What drew you to The Unruly Pig, and how would you describe the culinary philosophy or style of the restaurant under your leadership?              

I had been travelling with my now wife Shannan and when I returned to the UK, I  came to eat at The Unruly Pig and was bowled over at Head Chef Dave Wall’s cooking and the whole look and vibe of the pub which is smart but also a little wacky and quirky. Brendan won’t mind me saying that he is certainly one of a kind and his personality is reflected in the look and feel of the pub.

But the main reason I joined The Unruly Pig’s kitchen brigade was that I loved the fact that Dave was cooking something different to the local norm: Britalian dishes (fresh, seasonal British food with an Italian influence). Dave summed it up to me as “high-end quality food, in a relaxed setting”. I could not put it better myself. When I go out to dine, that is exactly what I want: high-quality, wholly fresh, seasonal food but no stuffiness, please.

With your background in various establishments, how do you incorporate different influences into your dishes while maintaining a cohesive menu?

The cohesiveness is achieved by always sticking to the core food philosophy of the pub – fresh seasonal Britalian food. But within that brief, there is huge scope to fuse the best of British ingredients with Italian dishes. Dave Wall also had classical French training, but all those core skills we learned at an early age still serve us well in adapting dishes to our brief. A classical French food foundation will serve any chef very well in their future career.

Can you tell us about any signature dishes or innovative creations you’ve introduced to the menu since becoming Head Chef?

I suppose the dish that I created that has drawn the most praise from our customers is a ravioli dish. We love making fresh pasta each morning and these ravioli are filled with Cashel blue cheese and are served with Wye Valley asparagus, locally foraged wild garlic, a confit of Burford brown egg yolk and a pickled onion gel. The feedback has commended both the colourful appearance of the dish and the melding of ingredients – it just seems to be the perfect marriage of flavours.

The Unruly Pig has gained a reputation for its exceptional dining experience. How do you ensure consistency and quality in every dish that goes out to the customers?

Consistency is the biggest challenge for any kitchen. The scope for human error is always present in the context that an additional thirty seconds of cooking can make all the difference to whether say a fish dish is over or on point. The truth is that achieving consistency is an everyday battle requiring constant supervision and vigilance. It helps, however, if you have a stable team and at The Unruly Pig, we have a comparatively small turnover in the kitchen team, many of whom have been working with us for 7 years or more.

As a chef, how do you stay inspired and continue to evolve your culinary skills and creativity?

One of the key values of The Unruly Pig is continuous improvement and we really walk the talk here. Just when it feels that the pub is running like a Swiss watch, we deliberately up the bar and I think that this has been key to our success.

Being challenged to constantly get better is never easy but when I compare the dishes we serve now, from when I first started at The Unruly Pig, the improvement is palpable and I feel proud. What I really appreciate is that the owner, Brendan, does not normally interfere with the running of the kitchen or in the construction of the dishes/menu. He leaves it to us and that autonomy is powerful and motivating. He will have his views on dishes but he very much respects mine and those of the rest of the senior management team. If we all disagree, he defers to our collective view of the new dishes.

Looking towards the future, are there any exciting plans or aspirations you have for The Unruly Pig? 

Our plans and aspirations are to try to stay relevant, to continue to up our game, but also to simultaneously deliver what the customers want to eat. Marrying all of these goals is a constant headache and pleasure. Every job has its moments, of course, but I feel privileged to have been a significant part of the Unruly journey so far. My firstborn son Ezra is now just one year old and he has made me the proudest man in the land. But I am also so proud of what Team Unruly has achieved in becoming a national name. Yet we are from a tiny, little village (Bromeswell) in rural Suffolk, the county which I love and in which I was born and bred. Who’d have thought? I am still pinching myself.

For more information on The Unruly Pig, see here.

Orford Rd, Bromeswell, Woodbridge IP12 2PU