Chef of the Week: James Tagg, Executive Chef at Manchester United Football Club

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
12 years.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
Family, both granny’s good cooks/bakers. I studied at Cumbernauld College, Glasgow College and Perth College, back in the days of City & Guilds. Travelling the UK in various establishments, usually high volume venues, horseracing, football, rugby, cricket and contract catering.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Testing and trying the first new recipe/dish before releasing it to the guests.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Seasoning, butter & sugar. I cheated here salt & pepper are an unbreakable duo.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Serrated prep knife and flexi spatula that I can carry in my pocket, and my blast chillers.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Street food and where it fits into hospitality.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Not reading. listening or observing what guests are looking for when they are out to dine, also sometimes we can make things over complicated.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Berry season, I am a big, sweet tooth Glaswegian, also forced rhubarb season with a cup of sugar to dip it in straight from the garden. This takes me back to my childhood stealing the rhubarb out of the greenhouse!

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Lamb Hot Pot Pie, sticky red cabbage, sauteed green beans.

How do you come up with new dishes?
A variety of processes, reviewing the market and trends in key cities in the UK and countries around the globe to see what dishes are current and how that would fit into the region I work in. Season, skill, availability and budget drive new dishes greatly, having an understanding of the guests current likes and dislike to give them a surprise.

Who was your greatest influence?
Both granny’s, Willie Deans, Willie Pike and Bruce Sangster (Scottish Culinary team colleagues & restauranteurs) and my mentor Steve Anderson (retired lecturer).

Tell us chefs you admire.
Anjula Devi (Consultant Indian chef) and Willie Deans (Deans at Let’s Eat Perth, Scotland).

What is your favourite cookbook?
Escoffier “the complete guide to the art of modern cookery” this was my go-to book during my early training days.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Anjula Devi, Jonny Nolan (Petisco Restaurant Sale) and Aaron Lee Tran.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Not got one, Sorry, although Salvi’s Deansgate Square is well worth the visit.