Chef of the Week: Freddie Innes, Head Chef at The Plough at Ivy Hatch in Kent

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Six months – However we had only been open for eight days before this current lockdown. During lockdown we have been operating a takeaway service and boxes for people to finish at home.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My first job was at Ockenden Manor Hotel where if found my love for fine dining.  Using fresh, local produce and really letting the produce do the talking. From a young age I would go shooting with my grandad, after a couple of days hanging you would pluck the birds and get them ready for cooking. We would often serve the pheasant with vegetables from the garden. I picked up a lot of skills along the way working with Stephen Crane at Ockenden Manor, which at the time held a Michelin star. I also learnt a lot from Shane Hughes, I worked with Shane in two different places where they both received Michelin stars.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love the pressure, the stress and the creativity that is in the kitchen, also the fun you can have developing new dishes and making people smile just from eating. Everyday is never the same so that always keeps you on your toes.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter, salt and meat.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Thermomix, it makes everything so smooth!

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I would say boxes of food being sent all over the country as this is what everyone has sort of been forced to do because of the lockdown which is what we do at The Plough. This has worked very well, we send out instructions for everyone to follow.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Being a chef requires working long hours and weekends, a lot of the younger generation coming through now don’t want to give up their weekends to work.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
I enjoy cooking all year round because different things come into season that we all love, but I would have to go with winter because of all the lovely game, so much to play with. I’m a strong believer that people should eat more game as a lot of people are scared of it and always end up buying chicken, instead of venturing out and trying pheasant or partridge.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I don’t really have a signature dish or dishes that I’m most proud of, I just enjoy cooking and creating new dishes.

How do you come up with new dishes?
When new ingredients come in to season I just put pen to paper and doodle. Once I’m happy I’ll order the food in and taste it to see if it all works, if it does it goes on the menu.

Who was your greatest influence?
This would have to be Mark Charker, he took me under his wing when I was 15 years old and taught me how to move my arse when you’re extremely busy getting the work of three men done on your own! He also taught me the discipline I needed. After all the time we worked together we have stayed great friends and speak 2-3 times a week about everything weather that’s life at home or new things to try in the kitchen.

Tell us three chefs you admire

What is your favourite cookbook?
There are literally so many to choose from I would have to stick to the Larousse Gastronomique as that is a classic and you can never go wrong.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
James Dearden and Mark Charker at The Fig Tree, once they are back open properly I would recommend it.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Apart from us opening I don’t know anyone crazy enough to take that on during a lockdown!