Chef of the Week: Hylton Espey – Chef Patron of Rastella Restaurant at Merchants Manor in Falmouth, Cornwall

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
3 and a half years.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I have always loved food and restaurants since I was a kid. I was a Commis for 6 months at Olympia Cafe before completing a Chefs Course at the ICA in Stellenbosch, the majority of my training was in Cape Town, South Africa.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The creative process, watching an idea being transformed from inspiration and drawing into something delicious and beautiful.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter, Cornish Sea Salt and smoking chips.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My Chefalarm.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Josh Niland and his whole fish philosophy.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Assuming that a trial shift shows up!

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Autumn, there is more time to be out of the kitchen and be inspired as the first new forest growths arrive. The seafood is also at its prime as we move into winter.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My pear and Per Las dessert, this was the first idea I created when I was a young chef student and it has been with me ever since. It has developed into the 2019 version of Per Las Blue Cheese parfait, red wine poached pear, pear gastrique and salted walnut praline.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I take inspiration from anything, heritage, music, art, childhood memories but my biggest influence is from nature and I try to spend a lot of time outdoors.

Who was your greatest influence?
Anthony Bourdain, his work ethic and stories about this life in the kitchen is second to none. When I got my first chef job the boss said “you start at 7am, go buy Kitchen Confidential and read it”.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Daniel Humm, Ferran Adria & Dan Barber.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Tough one, it probably is Sat Bain’s Book ‘Too Many Chiefs, Only One Indian’. It has a great narrative, really cool design and full of photographs.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Jordan Bailey, Kobus Van Der Merwe and Gareth Ward.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Jordan Bailey’s Aimsir in Ireland.