Head Chef, Claire Nicholls, Castle House Executive Head Chef

What inspired you to become a chef?

Watching my Mother and Grandmother cooking.  From an early age, I always wanted to get involved and decided very early on I was going to be a chef.

What do you find most satisfying about your work?

Working with my team and producing some great looking and tasting food. I try to get them involved as much as possible to help them evolve into good all round chefs.

I am very lucky that the owners of Castle House have a farm nearby where they breed pedigree Herefords and rare breed sheep which we often have on our menus.  The farm has the most amazingly huge kitchen garden and I work closely with Colin the gardener so we always have a good supply of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. Farm to Fork I know is something of a cliché but it is definitely true at Castle House.

And least?

It has to be the unsocial hours. Missing out on time with family and friends but that goes with the job.

Is there a chef you particularly admire, and if so why?

I don’t have a particular chef I admire. But I do admire female chefs, as this can be a difficult trade. The industry is still very male-orientated but it is getting better.

Is there any aspect of the contemporary food scene that you find especially irritating?

When chefs over complicate food for the sake of it.

Describe your perfect dining companion or guest.

Someone who is not fussy and willing to try new flavours and combinations.

Are there any food critics whose opinions you respect, and if so why?

Yes, the other chefs in my team and all our guests, of course.

What’s the most important thing to bear in mind when cooking your recipes at home?

Stay calm and keep tidy.   When your kitchen is messy it can make you stressed.  Read your recipes through first and check you have all the necessary ingredients. But most importantly enjoy.

Castle House Hotel