Chef of the Week: Luke Holder – Head Chef of Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood in Hampshire

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
9 years!

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
It was all from my family. Cooking was a central aspect of our family life and my dad was a very passionate cook, although he wasn’t a chef. In fact… all of our family events still evolve around food!

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
There’s three key points: The comradeship, the creativity and the fact that all you need to succeed is a committed attitude.

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

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

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
The art of fermentation (a healthy and savoury trend).

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down? 

  1. Seasoning and tasting issues!
  2. Lack of commitment to see their jobs and careers through.
  3. Not being able to see the big picture.
  4. Their personal attitudes

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Can I pick two? It would be spring AND autumn becausethe swing into a new season brings such a depth of change with what is being produced in the kitchen.

Knowing your relationship with mother nature is constantly inspiring. I lived in a tropical country at one point in my life and I didn’t get that sense of seasonal change like we all do in the UK.

Here…the contrast from winter to spring and summer to autumn is just amazing. My life evolves on moments that are highlight by the coming of certain products. Wild garlic and morels in the spring, porcinni and elderberries in the autum

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Its difficult to say, but one of the dishes we come back to year after year is the polenta ravioli with artichokes and truffles. It never gets boring.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Let the quality of produce dictate what direction you should go in

Who was your greatest influence?
That’s hard to answer. All chefs I have worked with have had a huge influence on who I am today. Chris Galvin gave me a passion for quality ingredients. Dave Miney always inspired me to work with a positive attitude. Italo Bassi for the importance of keeping things simple. Robin Hutson, although not a chef, taught me to think like a customer, which is arguably one of the most important things chefs underestimate, finally Angela Hartnett for helping me believe in myself.

If I had to choose one? It’s hard but it would be Angela, as she is the one who put all the parts together!

Tell us three chefs you admire

Mitch Tonks – His commitment to cooking and being hospitable in equal measure is something we should all embrace.

Phil Howard – it was my first ever Michelin meal. I love his food and where he is today. Nothing to prove to anyone just a huge commitment to delicious food without all the fuss and nonsense.

Nathan Outlaw – His food looks so simple and clean, he’s #kingofclean! What he has achieved with a simple and quite approach to his career is something I admire hugely

 What is your favourite cookbook?
There are 2:

The French Laundry was a huge influence in my early years as a chef. Thomas Keller really established American food scene as being credible. I think it is beautifully written and all of those dishes still have relevance today – it’s timeless.

The other is Elizabeth David’s Italian Food. Most cook books today are obsessed with accurate recipes. The way Elizabeth David writes about food provokes emotion and this is something which is so important when cooking. She teaches to not  get too caught up with recipes, you should feel your way to perfection with a dish.

 Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?

The guys at Coombe Head Farm, Tom Adams and Tim Spending. I had the pleasure of eating there earlier this year and what a meal it was! Stunning, creative and a real credit to this countries food scene.

 What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?

Sabour – I love [chef] Neives and her approach to food.