Chef of the Week: Paul Brinicombe, Head Chef at Double Locks in Exeter

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have been at Double Locks since we re-opened in May, but I have a long history with the pub as I was the sous chef here about eight years ago.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I grew up cooking with my nan, making sausage rolls to mince pies at Christmas time. I always had a little step to watch what she was doing, then at 15 I joined the Royal Air Force, after leaving I worked with some of the top chefs in the UK.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love the creativity being a chef lets you have, from having an idea, to getting it on the plate and serving the dish to our customers.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter, butter and butter!

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My Robot Coupe is my best friend in the kitchen, it’s used for such a variety of purposes.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I love seeing sharing dishes at the moment, whether that’s a big pie for the table, a whole saddle of venison, or a nice beef wellington dropped in the middle of the table and everyone digs in.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Trying to be overly ambitious on a menu, all of my dishes have four elements maximum. If it’s on the plate it needs to be on there for a reason, it’s something I try to drum into my young chefs daily.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
I love coming out of summer and into autumn. Game starts to come in the kitchen door, it’s such a joy to cook.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My nan used to eat cod and parsley sauce at least once a week, when I was developing a menu for a hotel in Exeter. I knew nostalgic dishes like that needed to go on the menu but brought up to the modern day.

Beautifully pan fried the cod and the most intense green parsley sauce, fingerling potatoes, braised fennel and a parsley crumb for added flavour and texture. It tastes like my nans, but dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

How do you come up with new dishes?
Writing a new menu is either really easy and your hands don’t stop writing, or you can’t get anything on the page. I have a huge collection of maybe 100/150 cookery books so going through them for inspiration really helps, then once I have an idea I have a sounding board in my podcast partner who is also a head chef just outside Honiton.

Who was your greatest influence?
Apart from my nan, have to say Anthony Bourdain, I remember devouring Kitchen Confidential in an afternoon on the train.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Jeremy Lee, Marcus Wareing and Monica Galletti.

What is your favourite cookbook?
I love the Hand and Flowers book by Tom Kerridge, peeping behind the curtain at the 2 star pub is amazing, it’s on the ‘to visit’ list.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Matt Hallet at The Kings Arms in Stockland is absolutely smashing it out of the park at the moment. It is a pleasure to have seen him cook and develop as a chef over the last 4 or 5 years and big things will be coming to him soon I’m sure.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
The last year has been a difficult one for new openings so I’m going to cop out and go for the best meal I’ve had in the last year, and that has to go to Jason Mead and the team over at the galley in Topsham.