Chef of the Week: Merrick Webber, Head Chef at The Culbone Stables in Somerset

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have worked at my current restaurant, The Culbone Stables for three months.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I always loved cooking as a youngster and my passion really kick started during my apprenticeship under Andrew Dixon of ‘Andrew’s on the Weir’ which was the top restaurant in the area where I grew up. He really showed me the importance of great ingredients and flavour.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I really love the artistic flair and freedom to create.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
I really love the older Thermomix, it’s fast, efficient and reliable.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I’ve noticed pate en croute becoming a theme in top restaurants and the amazing aesthetics that chefs create for them.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
A common mistake is the wrong use and overuse of micro herbs, each one has a delicate flavour that can balance a dish, or definitely ruin one.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
My favourite time of year is the summer. There’s so many colours and fresh flavours. It’s such a great time to cook.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My favourite dish has been ‘Seared loin of rabbit, tomato and chorizo, rabbit rillettes, lavosh cracker and port geleé’ it was packed full of flavour!

How do you come up with new dishes?
I love to think of what I would like to eat in a restaurant. I never cook anything I wouldn’t enjoy myself. I love using seasonal local produce and foraging myself and base dishes around that. Using classic flavour combinations and sometimes crazier influences that everyone seems to love!

Who was your greatest influence?
My greatest influence was going to work in Denmark and working under Paul Cunningham and his head chef Paul Proffitt. They are amazing people and incredible chefs and taught me so much about cooking and also a great work-life balance.

Tell us three chefs you admire
The three chefs I admire are Martin Burge, who I worked under at Whatley manor and is the most amazing chef. Nathan Outlaw, his fish skills and flavours are unmatched and he’s such a kind and lovely man. Michael O’Hare, I love how out there his food is, he has no fear, and it really shows in his flavours and playing. I can’t wait to go and eat at his restaurant.

What is your favourite cookbook?
‘Hashi’ by Reiko Hashimoto. It’s a fantastic and basic Japanese cookbook that I’ve taken a lot of influence from.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
The chef to watch will be Alan Stuart who is opening ‘Oncore by Claire Smyth’ he is a very driven and talented man and will smash it out of the park down in Australia

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
My restaurant, ‘The Culbone Stables’ as my first Head Chef position, we’ve had an incredible summer and the best reception. Only good things to come.