Chef of the Week: Alex Naik – Head Chef at Abbots Court in Dorset

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
We opened at Abbots Court just over a year ago and I have been with the company for just over 2 years.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
Bit of a cliché but I got my passion from my mum, she is a very good cook. I learnt my skills on the job working my way up over 16 years from kitchen porter to head chef.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Making people think about what they are eating and seeing their reaction to flavour combinations and ingredients they might not have tried before.

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

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
A fine Chinois or a really good spoon.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Its nothing new but keeping it simple is right on trend at the moment. Less has always been more but now more so than ever. Thing are becoming more and more minimal but as long as you have quality ingredients you shouldn’t need to do too much to them.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Not seeing the bigger picture and what goes on when their food leaves the kitchen. Being a chef is so much more than just cooking food. Also poor organisation and failing to keep sections clean and tidy before, during and after each ticket.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Definitely spring. After a long damp winter there is nothing better than seeing the abundance of ingredients “springing” back into life, be it foraged flowers, the first signs of shoots poking though the soil.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My Magnolia petal pre-dessert. It only uses ingredients which have been foraged or grown within 1 mile of Abbots Court and people really don’t know what to expect from it.

How do you come up with new dishes?
It tends to happen quite late at night after service when I’m trying to wind down but it would seem I can never turn my chef brain off! Either then or walking around the grounds and surrounding fields and woodland of Abbots Court.

Who was your greatest influence?
Once again my mother!

Tell us three chefs you admire
Massimo Bottura, Jordi Roca and Ferran Adria.

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

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Lukasz Skurzok, definitely the most talented pastry chef I have ever worked with, great technical skills, plating and flavour combinations. He would be part of my dream team any day.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
“Aulis” by Simon Rogan. I have not eaten here yet but I have at his flagship L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria. And if that is anything to go by this intimate 8 cover private dinning restaurant should be something pretty special!