Chef of the Week: Ben Routley, Head Chef at The Farmers Arms in Combe Florey, Somerset

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I’ve been at The Farmers Arms in Combe Florey for just over 2 years. Been a struggle with covid & lockdowns. But we are on our feet & running now.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skill?
Always had a love & passion for fresh ingredients. When I was 13 I dug half my parents garden up to create myself a veggie patch at I wanted to see the process and grow of all these different fruits & vegetables. Which then lead to creating dishes with what I had produced. I learned most of my skills from a head chef that seen me through my apprenticeship. Who which taught me a lot of what I know now and there’s a little bit of him in every dish create.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I enjoy the fact that everyday is different to the day before. I enjoy having all of these fresh, local ingredients on our doorstep. That are some of the best in world and just a stone throw away.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without?
For me personally it would have to be garlic, salt & thyme.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Its got to be our Josper!! Its a charcoal fired oven of which can get up to 450C. Its gives a fantastic flavour to everything from egg plant to ribeye steak to a fillet of halibut. First time I’ve used one is here at the farmers arms and I don’t think id ever go back to not being able to use one.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I’m a huge fan of the sous vide. I think this brings a whole other level of flavour to the pass. Which also matches extremely well with the Josper. Having the Josper to sear a piece of of meat which then will intensify even more in the sous vide.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
I think a lot of people think they would like to be a chef but don’t see the sacrifices that come with it. Like the long hours, working bank holidays etc and understanding the wages aren’t fanatic at the start and you need to invest your life and soul to be able be able to prove yourself.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Spring is got to be the best. Everything has had a little bit of sunshine and you sure can taste it in the produce. Vegetables and growing well. Berries are thriving. Meat is on top form ( LAMB is my favourite ) & we have a lot more fish available.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I wouldn’t send anything to a customer I’m not proud of. I have a lovely pickled mackerel dish on at the moment for a starter. But I also have a locally shot backstrap of venison on. These are the two dishes that I would suggest to a customer if they asked me “ What’s good on the menu” as they do.

How do you come up with new dishes?
They randomly burst into my head and I just have to grab a pen & paper to write it down or it will be lost into the unknown. These normally come around 2am as I’m trying to sleep!

Who was your greatest influence?
Marco Pierre White. I don’t need to say anything else apart from people come and go but legends never die!

Tell us three chefs you admire!
Again the legend that is Marco Pierre White. Along side the lovely Mary Berry & the one that keeps me watching & laughing Gino D’Acampo.

What is your favourite cookbook?
These questions are getting harder! So hard to say a favourite as I have so many I enjoy. Hawksmoor – Restaurants & Recipes. White Heat by Marco Pierre White.

Who do you think are chefs to watch over the next few months?