Chef of the Week: Luke Hawkins, Head Chef at The Kensington Arms in Bristol

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have been Head Chef at The Kensington Arms for almost 3 years now.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I enjoyed cooking from a young age, when I used to cook for my grandparents whilst they were babysitting me. When I was old enough, I joined the Pony & Trap as an apprentice – I ended up staying there for 5 years.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Happy customers!

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Sherry vinegar, salt and garlic.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My Rational.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Sustainability is which I think is great, it’s a big part of are what we are about here at the Kenny. Also vegetables are being used a lot more.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
I find a lot of new starters to the industry see it as a glamorous job on TV, and do not realise the long hours and work load that goes into it.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
It’s got to be spring. Because of all the spring vegetables and new season lamb. Such fresh stunning flavours.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
We have one dish on from day one that never comes off the menu, smoked bath chap, with crispy squid, burnt apple, fresh apple and pickled red cabbage.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Bouncing ideas of the rest of the team, normally with me shouting things out and them writing it down, then we will work on the dish, do a few tastings and tweaks.

Who was your greatest influence?
Would have to be Josh Eggleton, I have worked with and for Josh for over 10 years on and off now.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Tom Brown, Tommy Banks and Magnus Neilsson.

What is your favourite cookbook?
I’m still in the middle of reading Roots by Tommy Banks at the moment. One of the first books I read was Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson; I still go back to this today.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Rob Howell at Root is doing some amazing things with vegetables.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I ate at Cornerstone and Sabor last month, two outstanding meals.