Interviewed August 2009
Michael Caines is head chef of two-star Michelin restaurant Gidleigh Park, prettily set on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.
Q – How long have you been cooking professionally?
Since I was 18 - so 21 years at the time of this interview.
Q – Where did you train to cook?
At Exeter Catering College. I subsequently spent an influential three years under my mentor Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, before moving to France for a further couple of years, learning my profession under the guidance of such superstar chefs as the late Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu and Joël Robuchon in Paris.
Q – How would you describe your style of cooking?
Classically trained, done in a modern contemporary style using local produce to elevate the taste and flavours of a dish.
Q – Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?
Yes. Know your customer base and make your product appealing to them. Don't be too ambitious too soon - build up loyalty.
Q – Do you have a “signature dish” or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
I have many, but a particular favourite is lobster fricasee
Q – Do you have a favourite ingredient?
Not really, I am happy to cook with any ingredients. From a culinary point of view seasoning is a very important part of cooking.
Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?
I don't tend to get much time off so don't have a local favourite. Travelling away means I do get to eat out a lot, and often chose places from the guide books. I do also really enjoy discovering new chefs/Restaurants.
What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
There have been many: every day is so different. One I remember well is when Andrew Brownsword came to Michael Caines Restaurant in Exeter for lunch.
What would be your “last request” dish?
Classic roasted chicken with all the trimmings
Is there another chef that you most admire?
There are many; Gordon Ramsay, Raymond Blanc, Heston Blumenthal, the Roux Brothers for example. It is a hard industry and in general I have respect and admiration for people that show a huge amount of dedication for it.
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
Take your time to learn the industry. Develop slowly in all areas of the kitchen and be willing to go that 'little extra' of your own free will.
Any final thoughts you’d like to add?
Next year we will be opening ABode Chester, and are looking to announce future projects soon afterwards. Exciting times!