How long have you been in this role?
I have been at the King’s for just over 3 months, but worked previously for the Eden hotel collection at both Mallory Court and Bovey Castle.
How did you get into cooking?
Completely by accident. When I was young I worked as a kitchen porter in a local pub and did a bit of basic food prep. I went travelling for a while after school and then returned to the pub to make a bit of money until I decided what I wanted to do with my life. 10 years later and I’m still in the kitchen.
Do you think there was enough advice available when you were starting out?
I was quite lucky with my first job. It was in a pub near the seaside serving upwards of 200 customers a day in the summer. The food was simple but the head chef/owner had a real passion for fresh local produce, using day boats and local farmers as much as possible and stressing that great quality ingredients make a chef’s life easy. This was great advice so early in my career and is a philosophy I have always stuck to.
How long did it take you to get to the level you’re at now?
I was cooking for the best part of 10 years before I took my first head chef job. I was sous chef for 4-5 years in a couple of different kitchens so that I had the knowledge I needed to run a kitchen as well as developing my cooking skills.
Do you think enough people are encouraged to teach at schools or go into catering, and do you think there’s too much emphasis to go into a restaurant?
It seems that nowadays less and less people are going to catering college. I never went. I personally think that young chefs learn a lot more doing in-house training where they are forced to pick things up a bit faster. This way they can also start to earn while they are learning. I also think a lot of colleges need updating in terms of what they are teaching as lots of it is not relevant in modern kitchens. There is a massive shortage of chefs around the country so I definitely think more people need to be encouraged to get involved in the industry.
What made you go into this sector?
I have spent the last few years working hotels. I like the fact that there is always something going on in a hotel to keep you on your toes. All the extras such as breakfast, afternoon tea, weddings etc. give the job a lot of variety.
Every day is different. What do you like most about your job?
I love the creativity of it and the satisfaction of taking raw ingredients and turning them into something special that guests can enjoy. Every day is different and a chance to improve or refine what you are doing. I also love that I have been able to travel as a chef, something I would definitely love to do again in the future.
What does your job entail?
Everything: writing menus, cooking, teaching and supporting my team, dealing with suppliers. Basically making sure we are producing the best standard we can.
What would your advice be for someone looking to follow in your footsteps? Do you have any top tips?
Work hard and watch everything going on around you. Chances are every chef in the kitchen knows something that you don’t. Don’t wait to be spoonfed information, make your own efforts to learn and develop and question everything. Having a recipe is one thing, but understanding how that recipe works gives you a much stronger knowledge as a chef. I’m also a firm believer that you can learn a lot from eating out in good restaurants.
What are you looking out for on a CV or in an interview if someone was applying to work with you?
A good CV is important to get you noticed and get your foot in the door but the interview is far more important for me. Attitude is the most important thing in a kitchen, enthusiasm, commitment and passion to learn. With the right attitude young chefs can achieve a lot pretty quickly.
If you could go back and do anything differently would you?
I would probably start younger. I didn’t really take cooking seriously until I was 22/23 so I had some catching up to do! I would also like to have cooked in a decent restaurant abroad. I love travelling and think it would be a great experience to work in a different culture.
Describe your cooking/ethos in 4 words.
Fresh, seasonal, interesting, fun.
What is your favourite dish to cook at home?
To be honest I try to avoid cooking at home, but when I do I like to cook things that I don’t cook at work. I really like Thai and Japanese food, which is something I play around with at home. Either that or eggs on toast!
What dish would you cook to impress?
Depends on the occasion but a really good beef Wellington is always a crowd pleaser! Failing that I do a pretty decent full English!
Favourite ingredient to work with?
Too many to choose from. I grew up near the coast in Devon so I have a real love for fish and shellfish. Scallops and crab are definitely two of my favourites. I also really enjoy when the game season comes around. Dessert wise its always exciting when the summer fruits start to appear.
Favourite local ingredient?
We are very lucky to have some great produce in the Cotswolds. My favourites are probably Fosse way honey, which I have a whole dessert based around. I also love the Cotswold gin which is made a few miles up the road, we used it recently to cure mackerel which was very popular. There are also some pretty great cheeses made in this area.
Top 5 tips for someone cooking at home.
- Have fun.
- Be creative.
- Recipes are only a guideline, cook it how you like it.
- The most expensive ingredients are not always the best.
- Always have someone else to do the dishes.