Chef of the Week: Dez Turland, Brend Hotels/Saunton Sands Hotel, Devon

What’s your role at Brend Hotels?
I’m based and work out of Saunton Sands Hotel in North Devon which is part of the Brend Hotels group. My position has developed over the years from Development Chef to now a role of PR Chef developing the Brend brand through cookery demonstrations/judging competitions and importantly nurturing the talent that we have within the group.

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I started work with Brend Hotels in 1991 as Head Chef of the Royal Duchy in Falmouth before taking on the role in 2007 as Development Chef. In 2010 I moved to North Devon to oversee food operations at Saunton Sands Hotel.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I’m very lucky to have come from a family with European values about food, as my mother is Austrian therefore food always played an important part of growing up. As for learning skills I was taught the basic (which every chef should have) at Halesowen College, but you never stop learning you always develop and improve.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
My role now allows me to get out and about and meet farmers, fishermen and producers and I really believe in building close working relationships so much so that a lot of our suppliers have become good friends.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Food is constantly evolving and new methods and ingredients are being introduced into kitchens but to me as a chef there are three that you’ll always need no matter what, they are salt (I always use Cornish Sea Salt), butter (a good quality unsalted butter) and garlic (probably because of my European upbringing).

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Again this is a difficult because there’s been tremendous influx of kitchen tools and gadgets over the past few years that can add different textures and contrasts to food but hell we can all still cook the old fashioned way. So I’d have to say and I always preach it on stage is a good sharp knife that you are comfortable with I’d have my TOG Knifes awesome blades and a great knife.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Food trends are forever changing and sometimes it’s a mission in itself to stay in touch with them, a lot of chefs seem to be growing their own produce – it’s definitely a way of getting exactly what you want and working closely with the growers.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Sometimes young chefs want to run before they can walk – you need to get as much experience from your peers whilst you are at a learning age then develop your own identity it’ll come with hard work, dedication and determination.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
For me it’s autumn, September marks a turning point in the year whilst we still have some of the prime British summer fruit and veg available we also have the arrival of autumnal produce. Game is just starting to appear, blackberries and elderberries are at their prime, wild mushrooms are in abundance you’ve got to love autumn.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I’ve been in the industry way too long to single out a particular dish, but one that keeps cropping up whether on stage at a cookery demo or even at home is a twist on my Birmingham heritage “lamb curry” where I use different cuts and cooking techniques lamb loin/neck/shoulder, cauliflower and coconut puree, onion bhajis, confit potato and cumin jus.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I’ve a cookery library at home of over 250 cook books (much to my wife Rachel’s annoyance!) so I’m constantly reading you may see a dish in a book and tweak it slightly or adapt it. I also eat out a lot and I think this is very important for chefs as they can evaluate what’s happening in our industry.

Who was your greatest influence?
I guess firstly I’d have to say my mother as I left school a bit of a rebel not knowing what to do and she was the one who kind of pushed me into cooking. Secondly, my first great mentor was the late Michael Quinn MBE for giving me an opportunity at the Ritz. Thirdly, and most importantly, my wife and best friend Rachel for constantly having belief in me and supporting me throughout my career they always say that behind every great man there’s a great woman and where would I be without her.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Marie-Antoine Carême, who was probably the first internationally renowned celebrity chef. Marco Pierre White – the godfather of modern day cooking in the UK and a true legend. Paul Liebrandt, an Englishman in New York known for his daring and eccentric style.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Eleven Madison Park by Daniel Humm; Grand Livre De Cuisine Desserts & Pastries by Alain Ducasse; Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian by Sat Baines.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Adam Handling from the Frog in London and being in competitions with him over the past few years to see he’s a chef on a mission and a burning ambition to succeed. Next month also sees the finals of Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year where the South West have two entries from Lucknam Park in Dean Westcar and Thomas Westerland so fingers crossed for them.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Without doubt has to be Bibendum London iconic building brought back to i’s former glory under the guidance of legendary chef Claude Bosi.