Aged 26, Whatley Manor’s executive head chef has just achieved the astonishing feat of seeing off the best in Europe to be crowned Michelin’s Young Chef of the Year. Even star adorned chefs have their guilty food secrets though
Which foods take you back to childhood?
Staffordshire oatcakes with cheese and bacon. I grew up in Stoke-on-Trent and it’s really the only place you can get them. I’d go with my parents and buy them from the local oatcake lady and we’d eat them hot in the car.
What does home taste like?
Local beer down at the pub with my dad and brother. There’s a fantastic local brewery in Stone which produces great real ales and stouts.
What was the last thing you ate?
I’ve just had a bowl of porridge with raisins and chia seeds. I usually go to the gym at midday so I like to get in a decent bowl of carbs. When I’m in the kitchen, breakfast is my least favourite meal of the day, but if I’ve got the day off and can go out for breakfast, I’m a full English kind of guy.
What would you never eat again?
I’m quite an adventurous eater: I’ve worked in kitchens around the world including the US, Korea and Japan so I’ve tried a lot of things. It’s influenced the food I create at Whatley Manor – our squid ink tortellini stuffed with pork and spring onion was inspired by char siu buns I ate in China.
What’s your bad day comfort food fix?
Gyoza dumplings. I first tried them when I was working in Asia and would pick them up from fast food stalls. In the UK you can buy them frozen from Asian supermarkets and deep-fry them at home. I’ll usually rustle up a soy, chilli and rice wine vinegar sauce to go with them.
What’s in your fridge?
Natural yogurt, lots of fruit and veg and lean meat like chicken. My wife stocks the fridge and she’s a bit of a health food addict. When I’m home for dinner on my days off, she does most of the cooking.
What do you eat when no one is looking?
Probably something like good bread with lots of salty butter: something comforting and carby. We’re in the middle of nowhere so there are no fast food places nearby.
Which restaurants make you happy?
Holborn Dining Room in London. The pâté en croute and lobster thermidor are done really well. I know the chef Calum Franklin and he’s amazing.