Chef of the Week: Joe Bartlett, Head Chef at The Lake Country House & Spa in Builth, Wales

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
4 months.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I just love eating, used to gorge myself when I was a kid. I remember cooking dinner for my mum from a Gary Rhodes cookbook. I went down hard. I was only about 12 years old. I learnt my skills from A chef called Mike Davies, at The Holne Chase Hotel on Dartmoor, formerly of the Castle Hotel, Taunton working under Phil Vickery and Richard Guest. He gave me the basic skills and knowledge I needed to progress as a chef. He was old school, cooking in a pan, no gadgets, I learnt so much.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The buzz, the freedom to express yourself and be creative. The industry is highly competitive and the fact that you never stop learning is incredible.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, wild food – preferably foraged mushrooms and cheese.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My knives, does that count ? If not then I’ll go for my stick blender.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Zero waste is massive but I think a lot more dairy and gluten free stuff will come in. I’m all for it, it’s a challenge and a chance to learn.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Smoking – I don’t smoke but I allow my fellow chefs too much time to smoke!!

But a good one is being polite, especially when you’re customer facing, it was one of the many things I learnt at Le Manoir, always be polite and say hello to the customers, sometimes even a smile would break out ; ) the amount of kitchen tours I’ve been on and the chefs just hide behind the stoves.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
I love the autumn, it’s great for foraging and the game season kicks in! Nature’s bounty at its best and a chance to showcase ingredients that people may never have seen, prepared or even tasted.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
The pheasant kiev, braised leg baked beans and straw potatoes was a hit this year. Lots of nostalgia and a great way to keep the pheasant super duper moist.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I’ll come up with a dish in my sleep, whilst out walking or foraging, on my travels and research. I’ve finally learnt to write the idea down and then recreate it in the kitchen. I quite often trial the dish as an appetiser to get a feel for it. If it’s a hit then it makes the menu, if not then it’s back to the drawing board.

Who was your greatest influence?
Believe or not when I was at school I used to be obsessed with the naked chef aka Jamie Oliver, but Gary Rhodes inspired me massively but most recently Raymond Blanc and more so Gary Jones for their infectious passion for produce and flavour before anything else.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Gary Jones, Sean Brock and Rene Redzepi.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Great British Classics, Gary Rhodes. An absolute bible.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Dorian Janmaat, soon to take on The Idle Rocks Hotel in St Mawes. I worked for Dorian at Le Manoir : )

Laurence Henry, with his new opening in Nottingham next year. I taught Laurence at The Ashburton Cookery School : )

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
The Mariners, in Rock. Always faultless, great atmosphere and delicious food.