Where did your interest in cooking come from?
I took a part-time job as a waiter when I was 15 and I just really enjoyed the atmosphere and kitchen environment. Then I used to give the chefs a hand where I could in the kitchen.
Can you remember one of the first dishes that you cooked?
When I was about 12 years old, I mastered spaghetti bolognese and used to cook it for my family. I always used to do bits and bobs in the kitchen when I was younger, but never at that point did I think that cooking would be a career – I just enjoyed having something to do.
Where did you train to become a chef?
I went to catering college but I only lasted six months. I was ready to leave school and have a job, and I didn’t enjoy going back into the school environment. So I left. My first job was working for Scottish & Newcastle, a large pub company, and as my interest grew in food so did where I wanted to work. Then Scottish & Newcastle sent me to The Star Inn at Harome for a three-week work placement as part of a new project.
What made you decide to become the co-owner of The Pheasant Hotel?
I was in my late twenties and was at the point where I thought I’d like to look into getting my own place. I had worked for Andrew and Jacquie Pern previously at The Star Inn in Harome, who had just been asked if they were interested in taking on The Pheasant Hotel. After they contacted me, I had a look at the building and thought it was a fantastic location and I should just go for it.
Is it difficult being Head Chef of a restaurant and also co-owner of the hotel?
It’s quite a big project, as we’d like to make it one of the best hotels and restaurants in the North. It just takes a bit of time. The back of the house, like the kitchen, still needs a lot of work, but I’m also learning as well. This is really my first Head Chef job where I’ve been writing the menus, and I have to think of the all-round performance of the hotel, not just the restaurant. Also, the kitchen is open all day from 8am until 11pm seven days a week. Although it’s not a big restaurant, it’s a long operation. Sometimes in the evenings, you’ve got people ringing for a sandwich in their room at 11pm. Even when you think you’re done for the day – you might not be!
How would you describe your cuisine style?
I really believe in trying to find nice ingredients and letting them do the work. We’ve got a good kitchen garden, a greenhouse, chickens for fresh eggs, a big orchard and herb garden. We’re just trying to cook with ingredients that are as fresh as possible so we get the maximum flavour.
What are your most popular dishes at The Pheasant?
There’s one quite unusual dish that we do. Well, it’s not unusual, just unusually popular because it’s a really simple dish. It’s the first dish on our tasting menu – half a roasted gem lettuce glazed in maple syrup, with raspberries, goats’ curd and roasted pistachios. It’s a vegetarian dish, and has become so popular that we now say it’s a signature dish for the tasting menu.
Are there any chefs that have inspired you?
Definitely the chefs I’ve worked for – Andrew Pern at The Star Inn and Claude Bosi at Hibiscus in London. The chefs that you’ve worked for are always going to be your biggest influences – you’re working with them all day every day. But apart from them, I really like Alain Passard who has a restaurant in Paris. They grow all their own vegetables and they serve mainly vegetarian dishes. It’s incredibly seasonal, they just pick ingredients from their farm every day – I’m really interested in that.
Would you like to get a Michelin star in the future?
I think any chef would be lying if they said they didn’t want to get a Michelin star. I think we have the opportunity to get one, I’d love to get that – and maybe three Rosettes – that’s definitely an aim for the future. We really want The Pheasant to be a real food destination where you get the whole package from the minute you walk through the door.