Chef of the Week: Nick Hack, Chef Patron at The Cadeleigh Arms in Devon

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
We got the keys to The Cadeleigh Arms exactly 6 years ago. I have been chained to the stove ever since!

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I never had any formal college training. I started as a waiter in my local pub. I loved the buzz of the kitchen and watching the chefs. I decided I would like to be part of that world. My then head chef took me under his wing. Ever since that day I have learnt, asked questions and learnt some more. I am still exactly the same to this day. Always learning, reading, and asking questions.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Definitely the produce. Seeing it in its raw form, learning about it, deciding each season what it would go well with, and hopefully at the end of it creating a stunning dish.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Fresh lemons, fresh thyme and salt.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My trusty pairing knife. Versatile and goes everywhere with me.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
We are still spotting a need for more plant-based food on our menu, a lot of people have adopted the flexitarian stance. People are understanding the need for a well-balanced diet and this includes consuming less meat, dairy etc. This has challenged both Tina and myself to innovate and create new plant based dishes.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Overcrowding the plate with too many elements/ ingredients. I have always believed less is more on the plate. 5-6 ingredients all cooked well and singing on the plate.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Autumn! Literally now. The colours, the harvest, picking apples, foraging. It is so, so satisfying.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Charred Aubergine, Soy Glazed Tofu & Crispy Glass Noodles is a firm favourite on the menu at the moment.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I sit down with Tina (my partner and also head chef here) and we brainstorm. We take influences from books, travel and our own interpretations of how ingredients can be used.

Who was your greatest influence?
I would say what is the greatest influence. For me definitely travelling and meeting new chefs, learning about their produce and their cooking techniques. It interests me and gets me creative juices flowing even more!

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Tina (my wife) she grounds me and is a good sounding board for ideas and has an abundance of culinary knowledge. Raymond Blanc for his pure passion and love of food and the industry. Local hero for me Michael Caines, an ambassador for the industry, his passion for Devon produce, the academy and everything he does to try and nurture today’s youth which will be tomorrow’s future in catering. Also his cooking isn’t too shabby!

What is your favourite cookbook?
An oldie but Casa Moro, a good historical insight into Mediterranean cooking, humble yet insightful. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain for a good read.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
There are too many to name. It is just nice to see the youth of today being passionate and wanting to progress up the ranks in this already difficult industry.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Brasserie MS, I love the concept of bringing the old classics back, along with some awesome twists and new dishes.