CHEF'S DISH: Lesley Draper talks to Ferndale's Brad Martin

As a schoolboy, Brad Martin had to keep quiet about his secret love...

Thursday, 11th February 2016, 15:48 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th February 2016, 15:50 pm
Sous chef Brad Martin at work

He was 13 and had a passion for baking; it wasn’t the sort of thing a lad from Dronfield thought his mates would understand.

“I taught myself from studying cook books; the science of baking really intrigued me. But I kept it quiet because I didn’t want people to think I was weird,” he says.

Seared tuna steak with tomato and chilli - as served at Ferndale Café

“The other lads weren’t into making cakes and cookies, so I didn’t even take cookery lessons at school – I chose PE instead.”

But none of his friends would scoff now... At 21 Brad is a professional – sous chef at Ferndale Café, recently voted Café of the Year by customers.

From fresh local produce he creates not only cakes and bakes, but also creative main courses and desserts.

The family-run Ferndale Garden Centre in Coal Aston is renowned for its varied menu, which runs to delicious treats including salmon wellington, fishcakes, mushroom stroganoff and crisp roast vegetable tartlets – plus a Sunday lunch starring 28-day-aged roast beef.

Sous chef Brad Martin at work

“Now my mates are proud of what I do for a living; they think I was brave to go for something different. The rise of celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White, and TV programmes like Masterchef, has done a lot to change people’s views,” says Brad, who started out at the Old Pump in Barlow while training at Chesterfield College.

“The only time they think I’m crazy is when I won’t go clubbing because I’m working the next day. You can’t cook properly if you’re tired or hungover so I accept that my social life has to give way to my work.”

Brad will be working on Valentine’s Day, too – which means he will probably be too tired to cook a romantic meal for his art student girlfriend.

But he doesn’t hold with any other excuse for not wining and dining a partner. “When people say they can’t cook, that’s nonsense. Anybody can if they set their mind to it,” he insists.

Ferndale Garden Centre Café

“All you need is a good, simple recipe and some guidelines – like weighing things properly; getting everything peeled and chopped before you start cooking. And taste as you go.

“For an occasion like Valentine’s night, I’d advise trialling the dish first,” says Brad, who joined the Ferndale kitchen team a year ago.

“The recipe I’ve invented for Ferndale’s Valentine menu is really easy, tastes great and looks really impressive.

“Tuna is a great dish to serve on Valentine’s Day – it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are heart-friendly, and it’s easy digest, so your date isn’t going to fall asleep before the evening is out!”

Seared tuna steak with tomato and chilli - as served at Ferndale Café

Recipe by Brad Martin



(serves 2)

2 fresh tuna steaks, seasoned with salt & pepper

75ml white wine

Sous chef Brad Martin at work

8 cherry tomatoes, quartered

15g black olives, sliced

200g new potatoes

100g green beans, trimmed



50g red onions, finely sliced

150g tomatoes, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

1 red chilli, finely sliced

1tblsp tomato purée

1tblsp fresh basil, chopped

100g tinned tomatoes


Place all sauce ingredients into a pan and simmer for 20 minutes until softened and thickened.

Boil the new potatoes for 10 minutes until soft, then drain. Once cooled, lightly crush them with a potato masher.

Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan, add the tuna steaks and cook for 1-2 minutes either side for medium-rare. If you prefer them more well-cooked, leave them for a minute or so longer. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add white wine to the frying pan and simmer until nearly evaporated, then stir in the cherry tomatoes. After a few seconds add the tomato sauce and black olives and cook gently for a few minutes.

Blanche the green beans in a pan for a few minutes.

Mix half the sauce with the new potatoes, ensuring they are covered.


Place a steel ring on to plate and fill with crushed potatoes in sauce. Carefully remove the ring.

Cut tuna into slices across the grain and place on top of potatoes.

Drizzle sauce over fish and around the base of potatoes. Add green beans and finish with a sprinkling of rocket.

Ferndale Garden Centre Café