Interviewed January 2012
Head chef for over a decade at Michelin-starred Chapter One in Farnborough
Q – How long have you been cooking professionally?
I started in 1989 in a small restaurant just outside Bray, called ‘The Warrener’ restaurant - sadly no longer around.
Q – Where did you train to cook?
My training as such was with Nico, starting at ‘Simply Nico’ and going onto ‘Chez Nico’ on Great Portland street. Then I worked at ‘Nico at Ninety’ on Park Lane. I went on from there to ‘The Ritz’ under David Nicholls.
Q – How would you describe your style of cooking?
I always struggle to answer this question... I would like to think it was real and wholesome with great depth of flavours, which showcase the ingredients that have been carefully sourced from field to fork.
Q – Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
I don’t know if there is a secret, but at Chapter One we are constantly looking at ways to improve the experience for our diners. I believe we should be accessible to all. Pricing is very important to us and we are relentless in keeping our prices as reasonable as possible.
Q – Do you have a “signature dish” or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
Dishes constantly change and evolve. However at the moment I would say Jugged Hare. It has a traditional method of cooking with long slow braising after it has been marinated and is served in a modern, refined way. Very popular with our customers!
Q – Do you have a favourite ingredient?
I love to cook Grouse – it’s everything in one. It is the beginning of the game season. The aroma whilst cooking it is amazing and the taste is unbelievably good - like nothing else!
Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
Although I don’t go as frequently as I would like, Chez Bruce never fails. Bruce’s cooking is simple, spot on with flavours and the restaurant also has a great local atmosphere.
What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
Working with professionals, watching staff improve, enjoying the buzz of the service in the kitchen and feeling the atmosphere of a busy restaurant is always a great experience for me.
What would be your “last request” dish?
A plate of great French cheese, a bottle of red wine with some fresh, rustic bread.
Is there another chef that you most admire?
Eric Chavot, Phil Howard.
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
Be prepared that it will be very hard work. Understand your ingredients and their simplicity. Never lose sight of what good food is and remember you need to cook for your customers.
Any final thoughts you’d like to add?
On the one hand I am feeling the need to expand. On the other hand there is so much more we can do with what we already have.