Chef of the Week: Chris Simpson – Executive Chef at Gidleigh Park in Devon

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have worked at Gidleigh Park as Executive Head chef for 1 year.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking started at a young age as my dad was a chef. I began training at 17 at Northcote Manor.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Working with some of the best produce the South West has to offer. Working with fish is a favourite of mine and getting excited about fresh produce.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
My team, salt and good quality vinegar’s.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Thermomix, such a versatile piece of equipment for all sections of the kitchen.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Sharing plates of food in establishments and chefs using more and more local produce.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Not being prepared to train and gain valuable experience. Some chefs think they can be a Sous Chef with in 1-2 years, yet they need to experience the running and understanding of the whole kitchen, from mis en place, service to due diligence/policies.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
The summer season – lots of my favourite produce around, peas, broad beans, asparagus, great fish and meat too.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Veal sweetbread, mushroom mousse and sourdough crumb with pickled Shimiji’s.

Passion fruit, mango, coconut and lime dessert. Obviously mango’s are not found in the UK but in wintertime they are fantastic to use when there isn’t much English fruit around.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Inspiration from eating out, reading cookery books, and when great ingredients come into my kitchen.

Who was your greatest influence?
Nathan Outlaw because of the time spent working with him previously  and the amount I learnt about fish and the fishing industry.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Nathan Outlaw, Martin Wishart and Nigel Howarth.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Rhubarb and Black Pudding by Paul Heathcote.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Tom Brown at Cornerstone in London.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Roots in York. Having recently dined there it has great food, atmosphere and produce.