Chef of the Week: Chris Wheeler, Executive Chef at Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Just over 15 years at Stoke Park/Humphry’s Restaurant.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
As part of my college course I had to go to work in France for six months. I worked six days a week and on my day off I went to work at Michel Guérard, the Michelin star restaurant in Eugénie-les-Bains. It was amazing and I fell in love with food and cooking.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Creating dishes and seeing the customers enjoy what I cook.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Daube of beef, redcurrants and salt.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My wooden handled Victorinox pastry knife.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Other than vegan, dairy-free (especially afternoon tea).

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down? 
Forgetting that you need to cook for your customers.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Winter – I love braising the cheaper and lesser used cuts of beef and lamb in a rich stock.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
The ‘Boodles’ (an edible tennis ball) and roast loin of lamb with mini shepherd’s pie (mixing traditional and modern ingredients and cooking techniques in one dish).

How do you come up with new dishes?
Don’t laugh but I eat a litre of Cadbury’s Flake ice cream before I go to bed and then in the night I dream up my new dishes. It’s true!

Who was your greatest influence? 
Jean Christophe Novelli, who took me under his wing when I came out of catering college and taught me that age doesn’t matter.

Tell us three chefs you admire?
Marco Pierre White, Bruno Loubet and Michael Caines.

What is your favourite cookbook?
White Heat by Marco Pierre White.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Dan Doherty, Luke Fouracre (Bottle and Glass Inn, Henley-on-Thames) and Maciej Glowniak (The Nothe Tavern, Weymouth).

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
HIDE Restaurant.

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