Chef of the Week: Ashley Dempster, Head Chef at The Deck House in Taunton

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have been at The Deck House since May 2023.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking came from my mother and my love for cooking shows since I was a toddler, I honed my skills by teaching myself not only from books but also by getting a job at a hotel in Torquay which taught me a lot.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The satisfaction I get from knowing I’ve potentially made somebodies day by sending out a great plate of food. Giving customers great experiences, and the knowledge that I’m able to pass down to younger chefs.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, garlic and butter.

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

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Not only the flexi-tarian movement, but also the new creative ideas in vegan food. Here at the Hideout we’re serving vegan wings made from spiced jackfruit using a sugar cane as a “bone”.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Not tasting before sending out and poor time management.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
For me it has to be spring, lots of delicious veg starts coming into season and it’s great to use them when they’re at their best.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My wife comes from the Philippines, which has a rich food history, so coming up with ideas based on her background and mine is really fun. Such as making adobo chicken wings, goes perfect with a cold red horse beer (Filipino beer).

How do you come up with new dishes?
I find inspiration from one or two ingredients then I get lightbulb moments and the rest comes from there.

Who was your greatest influence?
The Roux brothers. The Roux Brothers on Patisserie was the first book I was given and it has guided me well.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Mitch Tonks – I had the pleasure of working at rockfish for almost 3 years and his approach to sustainability and environmental impacts is very inspiring. At the same time as using the freshest fish from Brixham fish market.

Marco Pierre White – trained some of the greats of today, a real legend of gastronomy.

Clare Smyth – Absolutely amazing chef at the top of her game, her food at Core is a true gastronomic experience.

What is your favourite cookbook?
The Roux Brothers on Patisserie.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Adam Handling and Exose Grant.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Kasa and Kin in Soho, London – Amazing Filipino restaurant and sells delicious baked goods too. Everyone must go and check them out!