Chef of the Week: Ales Maurer – Head Chef at The Lygon Arms in The Cotswolds
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I joined The Lygon Arms seven years ago, first as a Sous Chef and after three years I was promoted to the role of Head Chef.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I use to help my grandmother who was a cook in local school. Although she only had access to limited ingredients, her meals were always amazing. I trained in one of the best restaurants in Prague and was fortunate to do work experiences with some very good chefs. I enjoy exploring new recipes and being inspired by the people I work with.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The buzz and excitement of a busy kitchen, the feeling on a Saturday night service when every guest leaves happy, the team work and banter which is needed in every work place and seeing young chefs progress. Most importantly, our job is never the same with seasons changing and the wide variety of quality local produce that has becomes available to use. I enjoy talking to local suppliers about new products each seasons and always look forward to writing the next menu.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, water and quality olive oil.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Back to basics done very well. Root to shoot style of cooking, farm to the table and the story behind each ingredient.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
New chefs need to be prepared to learn from the team around, listen and observe. Younger chefs often attempt to run before they can walk. I believe we need to be open minded, adapt and listen to our guests as they are our biggest influence.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Spring and autumn are the two seasons which leads to exciting changes on the menu, and when new seasonal ingredients become available. During spring we can enjoy asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, Jersey royals, radishes and watercress, and spring lamb. Autumn is great for all the squashes, runner beans, apples and wild mushrooms, game birds and venison!
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Puy lentil Scotch egg, slow cooked octopus, pheasant Wellington and the many desserts which we have prepared throughout the years. Dishes which are inspired by discussions with my chefs and tastings with my team.
How do you come up with new dishes?
Every new dish starts with discussing new ideas with my best chefs, and then recreating them in the kitchen. Tasting sessions follow with my managers and when we collectively agree with the outcome of the dish, it becomes part of the menu. I enjoy getting everyone involved and making them proud of having an input. It’s a team effort.
Who was your greatest influence?
As a young chef, I worked with a butcher in Kampa Park who was 72 years old, and who managed to do all the butchery for the whole place. I admired the energy he put into everything. When I moved to England 16 years ago, my inspiration became Gary Rhodes, I loved his cooking style. As of late I am inspired by observing the experience and talents of the people around me, within our company, and I continue to learn a lot from them.
Tell us three chefs you admire.
- My wife Jo – great pastry chef
- Tom Kerridge – for his food and what he has achieved
- Clare Smyth – amazing drive and passion
What is your favourite cookbook?
I have few:
- Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes
- The River Cottage Fish Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
- Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
With hotels, restaurants and pubs just reopening after Covid-19 closure, I encourage everyone to visit their local eateries and explore the local talent within their communities. We need to support our local restaurants more than ever and I am sure that the good places will became even better.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
GL50 in Cheltenham and Tom Kerridge’s The Bull & Bear.