Chef of the Week: Gemma Youlden, Head Chef at The Volunteer Inn in Ottery St Mary, Devon

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have worked for The Volunteer Inn for nearly 2 years.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion came from my mum, watching my mum cook from a young age. My skills came from on the job, working as an apprentice.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The most enjoyable moment being a chef is definitely the creative side. Designing menus, cooking with new ingredients and making new dishes.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, garlic and wine .

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
The Rational iCombi Pro.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Food trends are increasing and decreasing all the time. I believe that halloumi is still there! Customers trying game seems to be on the rise as well.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Tiredness is definitely a thing which lets chefs down.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Christmas. The food is unreal. The smell is fantastic!

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I don’t really have a dish I’m proud of on the menu. My first ever seafood menu at The Volunteer took me so long to create but had so many great comments.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I look for new ingredients and get inspiration from other chefs and put my own interpretation on the dish.

Who is your greatest influence?
My greatest influence is definitely Richard Hunt one of my Head Chefs .

Tell us three chefs you admire
Richard Hunt, Jason Howard, Jose Soto.

What is your favourite cookbook?
I have a West Country cookbook with all South West chefs and recipes in. Also venison – The game larder.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Definitely Charlotte Vincent from the Five Bells.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
The Volunteer. After the 3rd lockdown we re opened with all new Rational equipment and a kitchen extension.