We thought you'd like to know a little bit more about our Head Chef so we asked him a few questions:
Tell us about your background & what inspired you to become a Chef? I never set out to become a chef, although I had a love of food and cooking from an early age I'd never considered it as a profession, then when I was a teenager I got a weekend job washing pots at a local restaurant, when a chef called on sick one day they put me on the salad section, I can remember clearly that even though I made mistakes, even though it was tough, hard work, every plate I sent was an accomplishment, I'd never felt that before. When the managers started saying how well I'd done, how customers had commented favourably on the food they'd eaten, I realised I could do more than just wash pots, I'd found something I was not only good at, but that I enjoyed. I'd always enjoyed cooking, my mother worked hard during the week, and would cook all weekend to stock the fridge and the freezer, so I'd spend my weekends in the kitchen with her, it was a way of spending my time with her, but it produced a passion I still possess today, for the simple foods that make you smile. Those two things are what inspired me to become a chef.
My first proper professional job was at Mezzo in wardour street, soho, at the time Europe's biggest restaurant, from there I worked my way around the west end, including stops at The Atlantic bar and grill, and opening John Torode's modern British restaurant smiths of Smithfield, before I departed to work in the USA, which taught me different techniques and using different ingredients. I was always a good cook, but I consider my time working for Michelin Star winning Jeremy Hollingsworth as when I became a good chef, he very much made me the chef I am today. And I still run my kitchen the way he taught me, leading from the front. Time spent working with my best friend Andres Alemany at both his gastro pub The Purefoy Arms and his tapas bar Pulpo Negro, during which time we gained recognition from the AA (2 rosettes) and Michelin (bib gourmand) at both places finished shaping me into the cook I am today.
What's the best part about your job? Seasons, I can think of no other profession where the time of year can have such a profound effect on what you do, from spring through winter, the menus you write, the produce you use, the style you cook in all varies dependant on the season. Currently being in autumn which is my favourite time of the year I'm loving cooking the hearty, warming dishes and using the berries etc which will soon disappear until next year.
If you weren't a Chef, what would you be? If I wasn't a chef I'd be a food writer, I'd travel the world eating and tell people about the meals I'd loved and the ones I'd loathed. In fact, anyone want to pay me to travel the world eating ?
Which Celebrity Chef do you admire and why? I don't class him as a celebrity chef, to me he's just a chef, and the best this country has ever produced, but it's Marco Pierre White I admire, from the first time I picked up white heat and sat mesmerised by the food, the simplicity and attention to detail, I looked up to him, having been fortunate to work with many chefs who graced his kitchens back in the glory days, and been able to study the recipes and techniques up close and steal many of the recipes. Marco gets my vote every time.
What do you cook at home? I rarely cook at home, firstly because I'm not often there, but mostly because I like to eat out and learn new things on my days off. I do bake, bread especially, and on the rare occasions I cook simply at home, chicken thighs roasted with new potatoes, peppers, tomatoes , chilli and garlic, long and slow, that'll ding dang do for me
If you were eating at The Black Horse Inn, which dish would you choose from the menu and why? I'd have the Stone Bass, for me it's got everything, it's sweet and savoury, it's hot and cold, it's soft and crisp, it's a perfectly rounded dish, one I'm most happy with if I'm honest
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