Chef of the Week: Jon Howe, Chef Proprietor of Lumière in Cheltenham

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
9 Years and 11 Months – our 10th Birthday is on the 9th January!

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I always used to enjoy cooking with my mum (She will still tell you that she taught me everything I know!) but I was one of only 3 boys in my year to opt to do Home Economics at school and from there went to The City Of Bath college for 2 years and then on to my 3rd year as an apprenticeship with Stuart McLeod at the Chase Hotel in Tetbury.

I then moved on to Lords of the Manor under the 2 Michelin Starred Chef John Campbell. I then moved to Hereford to work under Stuart McLeod again first at Castle House Hotel (4 rosette) then the Left Bank Complex where I ran the fine dining, 4 Rosette offering, La Rive.

I moved on to my first head chefs position at the 3 Crowns in Ullingswick, where I was awarded a Michelin Bid Gourmand & 2 AA Rossettes as well as Le Routier dining Pub of the Year.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I think all chefs are adrenaline junkies, I love the pressure of service – there’s nothing quite like it. But especially as I’m getting older, the creative side and hunting down the best ingredients and fabulous suppliers, the friends you make & of course the instant gratification of positive feedback from happy customers!

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Maldon Sea Salt, Cotswold Gold Rapeseed Oil and butter!

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
The thermomix and, obviously, my chefs knife! We were fortunate enough to have a full kitchen refurb 6 years ago and my Control Induction plancha and stove is fantastic- and still looks as good today as it did when it was installed!

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I think people are striping things back at the moment.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Trying to fast track their careers, young chefs need to give themselves proper time to master their trade; work a good amount of time in each place, learn, develop and then move on.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
It has to be spring, but really I love seasonality; seeing different ingredients coming through, having a glut of one thing and then finding interesting ways to preserve it and use it later in the year. It keeps our menu constantly changing and always exciting.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Tequila Slammer palate cleanser. It consists of a salt tuile, tequila sorbet and a lime; a little bit of molecular gastronomy but it is just such a great interactive dish and always makes our customers smile.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I speak to our suppliers on a daily basis so I am led by the best produce that is available.

Who was your greatest influence?
Kean Maslen, my old college lecturer. At the time I was finishing my apprenticeship he made sure that I took a job in a kitchen where I could progress my career rather than taking an easier job which paid more money.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Thomas Keller, Heston Blumental and Dominique Crenn- they all have their own different ways of presenting their dishes and restaurants which I find so interesting. They are not afraid to be different.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Thomas Keller French Laundry Cookbook – it was ground breaking for its time and is still relevant today.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
I think Gareth Ward at Ynyshir and Matt Worswick at Latymer are doing really exciting things at the moment and are both top of my list for next year.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
We are fortunate enough to have eaten at both Moor Hall and Core this year, both are pushing the boundaries and I love the ethos of restaurants which are so ingredient lead.