Chef of the Week: James Holah, Group Executive Chef for Angela Hartnett Limited in London

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Since spring 2022.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I worked in a small Italian restaurant when I was at university and became intoxicated by the world of restaurants, this led to me taking a gap year to work for Marco Pierre White, and I am still on it 25 years later!

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The fact that to be at the very peak of your craft you have to excel in so many areas, it’s a huge challenge. Creativity and finesse, discipline, business acumen, leadership, and good old fashioned graft.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, lemon and butter.

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

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Lots of great new West African restaurant food places popping up.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
They don’t look after themselves, physically and mentally.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Late summer, as we transition from all the great tomatoes, summer vegetables and stone fruit into the early part of the game season, abundant wild mushrooms and our stomachs start to crave food that is slightly more satisfying like light braises and ragu. That coupled with the fact it is still warm enough and light enough to cook and eat outside at 9pm.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Ooohh impossible to answer!

How do you come up with new dishes?
I am led by my stomach and ask myself, what’s in season? What do I want to eat today? And then try to handle the produce with some sensitivity.

Who was your greatest influence?
Philip Howard.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Philip Howard, Sally Clarke and Angela Hartnett.

What is your favourite cookbook?
I like reading about new things these days and dip in and out so don’t have one, but back in the day when I was first starting out my nose was never far from Larousse.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Neil Borthwick, is quietly getting on with serving some of London’s most accurate cooking at The French House in Soho. Definitely Em Brightman who is blossoming at Murano and really driving the kitchen forward. Adam Smith at Cowarth Park is for sure someone who has not peaked at 1* Michelin, much more to come from him.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I adore the vibe, flavours and entire experience at Lisboeta.