Chef of the Week: Ashleigh Farrand, Head Chef at The Kingham Plough in The Cotswolds

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Just under 3 years, I started as Sous Chef and took over as Head Chef last June.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I’ve loved food and cooking for as long as I can remember and it’s something I knew I wanted to pursue as a career. I trained at the Ellenborough Park whilst doing my GCSEs and A Levels, later going full time and completing Level 2&3 NVQs in professional cookery with HIT.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The creativity and freedom you’re able to play around try new and old things whilst adding your own twist to a dish, and you get to make people happy and share your love of food with them, for me that’s what it’s all about.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter, salt and vinegars – these enable you to lift and balance a dish.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
A good non stick pan- they come surprisingly in handy (if we’re not counting a good chefs knife, something well balanced, not too heavy and of course sharp!).

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
The older traditions of fermenting are getting a lot more public interest and easier to access. Such as miso, sauerkraut, kombucha , making fruit vinegars with scraps. This also helps with zero waste which we should  all be focusing on as well.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Attitude towards mistakes, nobody is perfect all the time, we all make mistakes but you need to be resilient, pick yourself up and learn to look forward rather than being stuck on a mistake you made yesterday, think of it this way ‘”I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”- Thomas A. Edison.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Autumn – there is an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and  game season (especially being in the Cotswolds). After a hot summer in the kitchen there’s something comforting about rich game dishes with mash and gravy, hot desserts making they’re way onto the menu.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Dishes that we come up with as a team, I like to brainstorm with my team and we bounce ideas of each other and share our experience of what we’ve done before. You usually get a fantastic dish with elements from each person that you’ve never done before.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Sometimes it’s fantastic produce that our suppliers have and I want to use and showcase, it’s really important you having a working relationship with them to get the best they have in season, it could be wanting to but a twist on a classic that’s well loved (such as a sticky toffee pudding) or even inspiration from something you’ve seen on social media.

Who was your greatest influence?
I grew up watching tv chefs Rick Stein, Raymond Blanc, Jamie Oliver so I guess they fuelled my love of cooking until I was old enough to get into a professional kitchen myself.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Paul Ainsworth, Tom Kerridge and Elly Wentworth.

What is your favourite cookbook?
At the moment it’s The Noma Guide to Fermentation.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
It’s been open longer that a year but still new-ish GL50.