What made you aspire to be a chef?
I caught the cooking bug at a young age, regularly baking cakes for my large family. I must have been 8 when I baked my first birthday cake for my Mum’s birthday, an ice cream gateau! My mum still talks about it today.
Food has always been a family affair. I remember weekends in the summer spent picking blackberries in the morning, and then turning them into blackberry jam or crumble for dinner that evening.
At high school I had a great Food Technology teacher who identified my love of cooking and encouraged me to study catering at college. After 3 years at Exeter College studying hospitality and catering, I was given the opportunity to spend a summer in a Michelin starred restaurant in Brittany…the home of all things seafood! It was working there that confirmed my passion for cookery and made me the chef I am today.
If you could pick any 4 people from throughout history to cook for, who would it be and why?
It would be interesting to cook for Auguste Escoffier, the ‘King of Chefs’ and discuss how different food and cooking is today compared to his era. However, slightly closer to home, I would love to cook for my family. Of course, I’ve done BBQ’s and Christmas buffets for them, but they’ve never tasted the food I produce at work, the food I am really proud of! It would be great to show this off to them.
Talk us through some of the new items on the new Nettlefold Restaurant menu. Are there any new flavors that have been experimented with?
Fundamentally it’s difficult to class anything as ‘new’ in food. Evidently there are new techniques like sous vide, molecular gastronomy, but as far as new flavours go, someone somewhere has done it before. For me it’s discovering that there are flavours outside of our little island. My predecessor was a great experimentalist and instilled a love of Asian flavours in me, which I have incorporated into the menu. For example, one of my favourite dishes is the oysters with pickled apple and wasabi tobiko – not your traditional dish, but certainly a delicious one.
Do you have a specific style of cooking you enjoy most?
Despite my enjoyment of Asian flavours I don’t really have a favourite style of food, but I like to adapt and experiment where possible. I develop a dish around flavours I like or something visually appeals to me A couple of years ago, I ate at Gidleigh Park when Michael Wignall was Head Chef there, and it was a meal I will never forget. Notably, it was the dish I had which was smoked eel with Granny Smith apple and white chocolate, and a canapé of crab and Thai green curry espuma. I loved this dish so much I developed a main course based on it, cod loin, Brixham crab, Thai green curry and tempura tender stem broccoli, it’s simple but it continues to be one of my favourite dishes to serve to the Island’s guests.
Will you continually experiment with the flavours and change the menu at all?
As seasons change and different ingredients come in and out of bloom, I continue to evolve the dishes on the menu accordingly to ensure the best flavours are utilised. Of course, there will be a few staple dishes at The Nettlefold, such as, the seafood platter, freshly sourced from the Devon coastline that stand the test of time. It’s important to constantly develop as a chef, experiencing different dishes and embracing new ideas as the palette of the diner changes so fast we aim to ensure the menu reflects this. If you stand still as a chef, you will get left behind! –
How important is it to incorporate locally sourced produce into the dishes?
Using local produce is very important to me. Not only does it support the local economy, it also facilitates sustainability. In this time of global meltdown both environmentally and economically, it has never been more important to support your local growers, fisherman and producers. Who wants chlorine washed chicken from the US? Think of the food miles, the environmental impact, and importantly, the complete lack of traceability. The discerning diner wants to know that the food on their plate has been raised ethically in an environmentally responsible manner, at Burgh we ensure this approach is adopted In regards to all the produce we use. My lobster, crab and scallops are all locally sourced. I buy my chicken and duck directly from the farmer just twenty minutes away, while my beef comes from a local butcher who in turn buys from local farms. Here in the West Country we’ve got a lot to celebrate in terms of our produce, and using it reduces carbon emissions while supporting our local economy – a win for everyone!