Chef of the Week: Jason Mead, Head Chef at The Galley Restaurant in Topsham, Devon
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Since September 2018, so about 16 months.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I always had an interest in food as a child, I loved cooking and baking at home with my mum or gran. My skills have been honed over many years with almost every chef I’ve worked with having some influence, but my first taste of professional cooking was with Matthew Tilt at the Rodean restaurant in Kenton, where I did my apprenticeship, he taught me a lot.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The creativity and freedom of expression through food, and making people happy when they’ve enjoyed a meal you’ve created. I also love the mid service buzz, it’s like electricity flowing through you.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without?
Salt, butter and cold pressed rapeseed oil – Bell and Loxton, I love it.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
A solid non stick frying pan, I hate working with naff frying pans.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I definitely think guests are looking for lighter and healthier options, lightly cured or preserved fish such as mackerel and sea trout with raw vegetables served as a slaw or salad are always popular on my menu.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Rushing in without a plan, trying to hard to impress with overly complex food and forgetting the key ingredient in all food, flavour! You have to taste your food at every stage of cooking to understand how flavour grows and develops and then be able to repeat that process to accomplish success.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
I love to eat in autumn as I’m a huge fan of game meats and big earthy vegetables, but to cook I’d say the spring, it’s when Devon’s larder starts to come back to life after the winter and young vibrant green vegetables paired with lean spring lamb or pan fried fish such as sea bream can be found on my menu.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I make a mean lasagne. No seriously, I’m proud of all my dishes and I stand by them, if I didn’t like them they would not go live,we have lots of trial and errors before they make it to the menu for customers to taste.
How do you come up with new dishes?
With a lot of time, planning and thinking. We follow the seasons as closely as possible and talk with all our producers and suppliers to find out what’s good and what’s not, then we start with our chosen protein and build around it, we use previous tried and tested flavour combinations but try to put our ethos into there preparation and cooking, clean, simple and packed full of flavour.
Who was your greatest influence?
This is a hard one, I’ve always tried to take something from working with every chef I’ve met, big influences on my food style though have been all the different places I have worked. Each with its own style, has made me more adaptable in the kitchen .
Tell us three chefs you admire?
Raymond Blanc, Nathan Outlaw and Adam Handling.
What is your favourite cookbook?
Nathan Outlaws Fish Kitchen, and also Bruce Rennie’s Shore cookbook is great, my wife and I had an amazing meal there not so long ago.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Ian Webber at The Farmers Arms in Woolsery, North Devon. And also Chris Eden at Gidleigh Park are two chefs to watch over the next 12 months.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I’m excited to see what Johnny Lake and his restaurant trivet has to offer, hoping to get there in 2020.