How would you describe your cooking style?
We offer a whole range of food, from breakfast and light lunches to a bar menu featuring things like steak and chips. In the evening, we do more of a fine dining menu. It’s a long, slow enjoyable dining experience – you have drinks and canapés in the bar before coming through to the dining room for an appetiser, followed by a three-course meal.
Can you describe one dish that represents The Pheasant Hotel?
It would have to be the local lamb rump salad which we are currently serving – it’s a great summer dish when the weather is warmer. We serve it with heritage tomatoes in a range of colours and a sheep’s curd supplied by Andy Swinscoe from the Courtyard Dairy near Settle, which is made at Holker Farm Dairy in Cumbria. The tomatoes are dried out in the oven to make miniature tomato raisins which are combined with fresh sliced tomatoes, basil mayonnaise and green olive purée. The sheep’s curd is then crumbled on top of the dish – it’s really fresh and creamy with a sharp, quite acidic flavour which perfectly balances the tender, rich lamb.
Where do you source your ingredients from?
We try and use as much local produce as we can. We get our fish delivered from Hartlepool and our meat from a supplier near Ripon, who farm their own beef and lamb which is then butchered on site. We also source rare-breed pork from a farm near Sutton Bank. Sometimes we do have to go further afield, such as sourcing fish from the south coast and shellfish from Scotland – we always just try and get the best produce we possibly can.
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with at the moment?
The strawberries that we get from a fruit farm in Sinnington. I ring them up to make an order in the evening, and they deliver them fresh the next morning, so at lunchtime you can eat strawberries that were picked that morning. We make a popular dessert from them – a cheesecake made with vanilla cream cheese and clotted cream, which is served with a strawberry consommé and a sorbet made using rose water and fresh strawberries. We collect roses from the grounds around the hotel and dry them out to make crystallised rose petals which garnish the dish.
Tell us about your culinary journey.
I first got into the catering industry when I was 15, working part-time as a waiter in a pub. I used to help out as the pot wash and take food out to diners – the food wasn’t great but I just loved the atmosphere in the kitchen. From this point, I became more interested in food and went to study at catering college, but I didn’t really enjoy it. It felt too slow and I preferred the intensity of working in a kitchen. I went on to work for the brewing company Scottish & Newcastle for five years, which didn’t necessarily teach me much about fine dining but it did teach me how to run and manage a kitchen. As I progressed through my career, I became increasingly interested in ingredients and wild produce, which eventually led to me working at The Star Inn at Harome. I spent three years there before leaving to work in London at the two Michelin-starred restaurant Hibiscus, owned by chef Claude Bosi. It’s sadly not open any more, but he now has a restaurant called Bibendum. The difference in cooking style between the traditional Yorkshire fare at The Star Inn and Claude’s lighter cuisine which was inspired by his upbringing in the South of France, was vast, but both were great experiences. I then came back up north to The Pheasant, where I’ve now been for 10 years.
Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?
I was always interested in food, but it never dawned on me that it would be something I might do as a career until I stepped foot in a commercial kitchen. In the first pub where I worked, there was a big Greek chef who cooked steaks on four huge grills – it was absolute mayhem on a Saturday night, two chefs feeding 200 people. I thought it was brilliant.
What is your earliest cooking memory?
I remember watching the Roux brothers on TV as a child. Albert was making a croquembouche and I was just fascinated by how they could create something so amazing with food.
Were there any foods you used to hate as a child?
I used to really hate my mum’s boiled carrots! I remember retching when I had to eat them with Sunday roasts.
What would be your dream three-course meal?
I would always start with fish – wild smoked salmon is my favourite. Farmed smoked salmon is nice, but when you taste wild smoked salmon it’s a truly extraordinary thing – no wonder it’s so expensive. For my main course, I couldn’t resist having a beef dish of some kind, and it would probably be a sirloin steak. Finally, I would have to end on a fruit-based pudding as they’re my favourite kind of dessert. I would probably have poached peaches with strawberries and lavender.
What is your foodie guilty pleasure?
I have loads, it drives my girlfriend mad. She’ll leave me something like pasta and tomato sauce on the side for when I get in from work, but I then put loads of salad cream all over it and turn it into a kind of tomatoey pasta salad. She thinks it’s really weird that I can be a chef but I still put loads of condiments all over everything.
Name one restaurant, anywhere in the world that has really taken your breath away?
I’ve had two extraordinary meals in my life. The first at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Bray – there’s a good reason why it has been voted the best restaurant in the world a few times. Noma in Copenhagen was also truly exceptional.
Could you recommend a simple yet impressive dish for a dinner party?
As you head towards the back-end of September, a great dinner party dish is braised ox cheek on a bed of wild mushroom risotto with pickled silver skin onions, which balance out the richness of the mushroom and beef. The secret of cooking a good mushroom risotto is to make it with mushroom purée as well as fresh mushrooms, so that it’s full of flavour. You can make a lot of this ahead; make your mushroom purée and braise your ox cheeks, then it’s just a case of reheating them in time for the meal. Not having to do lots of last-minute cooking when you’re having a big party is important.
When you’re not in the kitchen, where are your favourite places to eat out in Yorkshire?
I have a six-month-old baby, so that takes up a lot of my time outside work, but when we do eat out during the daytime I’m a big fan of Mannion & Co Kitchen in York and Helmsley – they make really delicious specials and they also do lots of nice vegetarian food too. We also recently had an exceptional meal at The Angel at Hetton which Michael Wignall has taken over – he is certainly one to watch in Yorkshire at the moment.
Have you got any exciting plans in the pipeline?
We’ve just had a new £250,000 kitchen put in, which has vastly improved things. It used to just be a room with kitchen equipment in it and we were far too busy for that small space, whereas now on a busy Saturday night it’s perfectly manageable and the consistency of our food has improved as a result. We also plan to install a conservatory on the terrace, where people will be able to sit and have breakfast whilst looking out onto the duck pond.
Harome, Near Helmsley YO62 5JG, 01439 771241 www.thepheasanthotel.com