When did you begin cooking? I got my first job as a Commis Chef when I was 17. I’d been working as a kitchen porter just behind the pastry section so was always interested in watching what the chefs were doing. They used to let me help out now and again and eventually offered me a job.
Fondest foodie memories from your childhood? Going to my nans house at Christmas and having trifle. It’s a classic dessert and and real comfort food. Christmas just isn’t Christmas without it.
What first inspired you to cook professionally? It was actually the camaraderie of a kitchen that got me interested in cooking as a profession. I didn’t know a great deal about food when I started so my knowledge and passion for it really came later. It was the people I worked with who taught me to really understand and appreciate food.
What was your very first job in the industry? A Commis Chef at Airth Castle, Scotland
What’s the toughest job you’ve tackled so far? N/A
Proudest career achievement? My very first Head Chef job was at The Close Hotel in the Cotswolds. I’ve stayed in touch with their General Manager and when we met up recently she said the biggest impact I’d had there was on staff training. Hearing that for me was the proudest moment of my career because bringing out a passion for food in others is really important to me. I wanted to make sure the team realised that food is so much more than just an energy source and had the knowledge to talk about the dishes they were serving.
Where might we know you from? The Close Hotel in the Cotswolds or Squid Ink, Looe
How would you describe your style of cooking? My style has certainly matured as I’ve got older. I don’t like putting a label on it but I guess you could call it Modern British. The two most important things to me though is seasonality and quality. If those two things are right, you don’t have to overcomplicate things.
How many of are there in the kitchen team? Just me!
How have you approached the menu? The Nightjar has a more informal pub setting downstairs and a beautiful restaurant on the upper level, so the menu reflects that. We serve pub favourites like burgers and fish & chips, but done using the best quality ingredients sourced locally wherever possible. In the restaurant, our dishes are a little more special, making it the perfect place for evening out.
Which other local restaurants do you like to eat in? I went to Jack in the Green recently and the food was cooked perfectly, couldn’t fault it. In terms of venue though, The Pig at Combe is stunning, such a beautiful setting.
What makes the local foodie scene so great? The produce. For example, Devon boasts some fantastic cattle with breeds like the Devon Red. For me though, it’s the surroundings that inspire a great food scene. At The Nightjar we’re surrounded by rolling fields, with cattle grazing nearby and blackberries growing just 500 yards away. With that around you, it’s not hard to get inspiration for your menu.
What are your favourite ingredients at the moment? The free-range duck I get from the Creedy Carver
Do you grow anything yourself? No
Favourite suppliers you use for the restaurant? I love a company called New Wave Seafood, I use them for dry store ingredients and some fish. I also use a Greendale Farmshop for their butchers and fish. They have their own boats and are only 2 miles away so you can’t get much fresher than that.
What kind of meals do you cook at home? Nothing! I don’t really cook for myself, I prefer cooking for other people.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without? My Thermomix – it’s a blender, but also cooks, makes bread, steams fish.
What and where was the best meal you’ve eaten? I went to the Hand and Flowers for lunch and the food was stunning, absolutely faultless. But the most memorable meal would have to be at Gleneagles Hotel in Auchterarder. I had the most incredible steak tartare, seasoned to perfection and they do everything at the table so the whole theatre of it made the experience one I’ll never forget.
Top 5-a-day? I adore peaches, apricots, strawberries and rhubarb. With vegetables I love spring time, so things like cauliflower, asparagus, peas and broad beans.
Favourite cookery book? Alinea by Chef Grant Achatzs. His restaurant in Chicago is top of my list to visit before I die!
Foodie heroes? I was once stood at the side of the road in my chef whites and Marco Pierre White walked past and said hello, which was amazing. I really respect old school chefs like him. I like Gordon Ramsay purely for his raw determination, but my true foodie heroes are the fisherman and farmers who work so hard to produce the food and of course the people who come out to enjoy it!
Current favorite flavour combination? We’ve got a delicious venison dish on the menu at the moment with cauliflower, blue cheese and pear. We’re also serving sea bass with a satay sauce that’s really popular.