Chef of the Week: Lloyd Hesom, Chef Consultant in the North West

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I’ve been working for myself for the past 6 months, in this time I have worked in many kitchens around the North West.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I grew up in a pub where my mum was the landlady and my grandad was a butcher. After school I would work for my mum, collecting and washing glasses and at weekends I would help (and get in the way of) my grandad – jobs like sweeping, sanding the block and making the brews for a handful of coppers!

As I got older I would start doing bits in the pub kitchen. I didn’t really do well at school so I left with no grades – hospitality gave me a chance to learn an industry without having to be academic. I worked in a small number of pubs hotels and even a slaughterhouse after school, but I really learnt my profession at The Imperial Hotel in Torquay.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
What I love most about being a chef is the people. I have met some amazing people throughout my career, people I hold very close to my heart. Secondly, I love how the industry keeps pushing you (most the time to your limits) on a daily basis. There are always challenges that you need to get over and make it work. And thirdly, I LOVE cooking it’s all I know, love it!

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Onions, garlic and salt – with these three ingredients you can make anything taste better and complete any dish.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
A pastry knife – it’s a really versatile knife to have.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Plant-based meats and meat alternatives.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
A common mistake I feel lets some chefs down is lack of team work. Everyone has their part to play in the kitchen if one person isn’t pulling their weight, the rest of the team have to pick up their workload. Another mistake is young chefs not giving themselves time to enjoy and learn as much as they can before jumping into their first Head Chef role. Yes, it’s better money and the title makes you feel proud, but it also adds a lot of pressure and can take the fun out of it.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
I really enjoy winter for food. I hate the cold, dark early mornings but I love the winter dishes, the slow and lows, the big deep earthy flavours. Proper home comfort foods.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I wouldn’t say I have a single dish I’m proud of but each time I change a dish on a menu and it out sells any other dish or, even better, sells out and gets good feedback from customers, that’s a proud feeling that you got it right! I am that chef that watches what’s coming back on the plates into the kitchen!

How do you come up with new dishes?
When I come up with new dishes I firstly write it from the stove and work to the table, can we do it consistently? How much work is going on? How many elements to the dish? How will we store everything? Have we got the right equipment? I also think about the seasonality, and presentation.

Who was your greatest influence?
My greatest influence is a very close friend of mine Mark Hearnden who I have known for 25 years. He took me to Torquay with bin bags full of clothes in a clapped-out old Nissan at the age of 17 to start my chef adventures. He taught me everything I know. I owe a lot of my career to him.

Tell us three chefs you admire
I couldn’t just give three chefs I admire as there so are many, but 6 non-celebrity statues would be Mark Hearnden, Rick Ashworth, Mark Bizley, Philip Olivent, Lee Harry and Delroy Smith. All chefs I have stayed close to over the past 25 years of my career all great chefs and family men. They are great role models for the industry.

What is your favourite cookbook?
The Practical Cookery – best cookbook ever for chefs.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
I couldn’t tell you who the next star will be but we are having a really good influx of good chefs coming into the industry of late so I hope they will continue making it great.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
My favourite restaurant would be the restaurant that treated their staff fairly and have done all they could to retain chefs and front of house staff over the past 18 months – WELL DONE to them! The general public has seen this and I am 110% sure these restaurants will feel the rewards of it.