Chef of the Week: Carl Cleghorn, Executive Chef at Thornbury Castle, Near Bristol

What is the name of the restaurant you currently work at, and how long have you been there?
I work at Thornbury Castle Hotel on the outskirts of Bristol. I took over as Executive Chef in September 2020.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
When I was a child and my nan used to do a lot of baking with my brother and I. I used to sit on her kitchen top waiting for the spoon and bowl from the sponge mix. I learnt my skills over the years from some great chefs.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Everything really, most of all being creative and being able to put your personality into your food.

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

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Vita Prep, I just love this blender I honestly could not work without it.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
That’s a tricky one, it’s such a uncertain time for our industry at the moment. I’ve seen a lot of restaurants adapting and doing food boxes, but with the restaurants opening up again I’m seeing loads of barbequing. I love cooking on an open fire!

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
The most common mistake I think is not learning the basics, seasoning and tasting as well as the classical flavour combination. If you know the basics you can understand the fundamentals of cooking, then everything falls into place. Classical flavour pairings are another, they have been around for years and every chef should teach these to the younger generation of chefs and evolve from there!

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Summer, so much flavoursome produce around, it’s the freshness and the vibrances that comes with the seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I love all my dishes but the chocolate crémeux, passion fruit and yoghurt sorbet is a dish I truly love, its simplistic but flavoursome, I could eat it every day!

How do you come up with new dishes?
I start with the protein, meat or fish depending on the season. I then start look at flavour combinations and what is coming into season. Draft the dish with multiple combinations and then taste, eliminate and change where needed.

Tell us three chefs you admire.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Sat Bains – Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian, it’s just visually a stunning book and a great read.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
There’s been so much movement in our industry lately, I think it’s going to be a very difficult time for a lot of hotels and restaurants and everyone is going to be adapting their concepts and pushing forward.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Crockers Henley, the rooms are incredible, and the food is amazing, the guys are smashing it.