Chef of the Week: Alex Naik, Chef Patron at Thirteen in Poole

How long have you worked at your current restaurant? 
1 year spent refurbishing Thirteen ready for opening.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
Mainly my mother, but also being exposed to fine dining with my parents from a young age. Learning on the job, eating out at fine restaurants, watching TV cooking programmes and ready cookery books.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Making people happy when they enjoy what they eat, especially if it’s a new taste combination.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Onions, garlic and mushrooms.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
The shift away from vegan food back to an omnivorous offering where proteins and vegetables have equal prominence. Continued emphasis on sustainability.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Overcomplicating and overloading plates.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Spring because everything comes back into life and colour.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Pea panna cotta.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Often I get inspiration when I’m walking in the woods or exchanging ideas with others.

Who was your greatest influence?
My mother.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Simon Rogan, Jordi Roca and Massimo Bottura.

What is your favourite cookbook?
A Day at El Bulli.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Rob Howell at Root in Bristol.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Root Wells in Somerset.