Chef of the Week: Mike Arnopp, Head Chef at The Olive Tree Restaurant at Celtic Manor in Newport

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I started at Celtic Manor this week!

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I wish I had an interesting story along the lines of I cooked with my grandmother at 4am every morning baking bread, it didn’t happen like that ! I was always self-motivated as a child, if I wanted something I did it. From a young age I would have a go at anything. My son is much the same now, he want to be a farmer however I think he will be a chef. Whilst I was at school, I took catering as one of my options along with a record number of other boys. We had a teacher, Miss Babbage who gave me my inspiration.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Being natural is what I like about being a chef, when in a kitchen I’m very organised and I know what I want done. I have a large range of skills, so can jump in on any section. I like the long hot sweaty shifts where the whole team is bouncing, good food and good vibes, easy job when you enjoy it.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Double cream, quality butter & tarragon.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My electric pressure cooker maybe ? I will always make do with anything else. 

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
For myself supporting local produce, I do follow trends but then trends pass quickly. I have made my own smoker so local game, fish & vegetables go into it. I also love sushi/Japanese clean foods.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
I think the largest thing that lets a chef down is arrogance, I see a lot of it but they don’t normally last long.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
April-June, asparagus season, I just love asparagus. By itself or with almost any other dish, With home-smoked salmon, poached egg & fresh hollandaise! My favourite breakfast.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My own breakfast dish above I love most, proud of it when its my own caught salmon/trout and eggs from our chickens. Not that I’m prouder of it, I just seem to like it more when in season.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I normally work with the team or simply see a picture and I’ll take my own take on it.

Who was your greatest influence?
Keith Floyd, simple! Growing up with him on the tv was class. Too many chefs over do it, he made simple food great. What more could you want?

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Joyce Molyneux, one of the first women to receive a Michelin star. She ran The Carved Angel in Dartmouth, one of her recipes I found in a book Anton Mosimann “Take Twelve Cooks”. I then bought her books from there.

Keith Floyd Pure legend! Also, at the moment I like Hywel Griffith from The Beach House in Oxwich, part of The Seren Collection. I love his style of cooking, from local game to his fish dishes.

What is your favourite cookbook?
One of Joyce Molyneux for old time recipes or my original Theory of Catering dating back to 1985.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Hywel Griffith at The Beach House. Exose Grant and Nathan Davies from SY23 Aberystwyth, been twice now and loved the food.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
My favourite so far has been The Coast Restaurant in Saundersfoot, The location alone with great food & service. Faultless.