Chef of the Week: Aidan King, Pastry Chef at Hartnoll Hotel in Devon
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I started as Pastry Chef at the Hartnoll Hotel just before lockdown so still finding my ropes there. Previously I was a Senior Chef de Partie at the Jack in the Green for 5 years.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for food is something I have always had, ever since making flapjacks in GCSE cooking class. I went to Tiverton Catering College and gained industry experience working at Jack in the Green, and from doing events such as South West Chef of the Year and Exeter Food Festival.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I enjoy the sense of achievement when you receive great produce, locally sourced of course, and turn it into stunning food that people come and pay and enjoy for. There are hard times in this business but working as a team with the kitchen and front of house, it is all worth it in the end.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Chocolate, seasoning and butter.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
That’s a hard one because there is so many pieces of equipment that we all use all the time and take for granted. But probably the Rational oven or Thermomix, they are just so versatile and really help with making great quality and consistent products.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
It’s hard to say and spot food trends at the moment as we have just come out of lockdown and everyone is just trying to re-open and keep business, but BBQ cooking, with the likes of Marcus Bawdon leading the BBQ chef front, you only have to watch Great British Menu or go on Instagram and a lot of chefs now cooking or finishing dishes on BBQ.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Wanting to be the “on tv celebrity” chef. Cooking is just about passion and making people happy. Half the greatest chefs don’t appear on morning tv etc. But people get into cooking because they want to be famous, that is not this business. It is about cooking good food, enjoy doing it and enjoy making people happy.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Game season. Living and working on the edge of Exmoor we have some brilliant game and that’s why this has got to be my favourite time of year.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I’m proud of everything I produce. If I had to pick one dish it would be my cod dish from South West Chef of the Year. But I love my job so am proud of all the work I put out.
How do you come up with new dishes?
I start by sitting down with my Head Chef Paul. We go through what’s in season and available locally. I like to go through various chef cookbooks for inspiration, then adapt and change to suit us and our business.
Who was your greatest influence?
My greatest influence has got to be Tom Kerridge. The work he has done in this industry and to reach the milestones he has is incredible. But as I’ve got further in my chef career, it’s been more about local chefs rather than “celebrity chefs”, I look up to chefs now like Tim Kendall, Niall Keating, Guy Owen, Damien Wager and many more.
Tell us three chefs you admire
Tim Kelland, Damien Wager and Scott Paton.
What is your favourite cookbook?
Salt by Paul Foster, the look and feel of the book and such great content with easy to follow recipes – I have a lot of cookbooks!
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
James Checkley, now at Paschoe House is going be making a move on the scene. And any of the chefs in South West Chef of the Year, in the Young Professional and Junior categories.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
William Curley’s new restaurant in London, Smiths Court. Brilliant concept and place. And that’s why I’m also looking forward to the opening of Damien Wager Edible Arts at the start of August.