Chef of the Week: Paul Nicholls, Head Chef at The Woburn Golf Club near Milton Keynes

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
10 years, 4 months, 1 week, 2 days and 3 and a half hours!

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My mother was a terrible cook bless her, I thought peas were grey until I was 16 so I became a chef so I wouldn’t starve. I finished my last exam at school then the next day I started my apprenticeship in a hotel living above the kitchen, I was so fortunate to work with some amazing chefs from all over the world that started me off with my love for cooking and the crazy industry we are all in.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love to express creativity, I’ve always enjoyed making cool stuff from an early age weather its Lego or building a skateboard ramp there is something about creating something from nothing. I love art and tasty food so being a chef is the perfect combo. Also, chefs are a special breed of people that in a crazy way we love the high pressure, heat, stress and adrenaline rush of a busy day when others would run a mile. But ultimately keeping our customer’s bellies full is why I love it.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, pepper & passion.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
A sharp knife.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Being trendy doesn’t interest me anymore, I believe if your food is tasty it doesn’t matter if its ‘in’, I love the fact that we are now seeing more sustainable ingredients, local produce, healthy & immune boosting dishes becoming available, that’s the right direction we should be going.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Over complicating. I can’t taste your ‘hand dived scallop’ because I have 27 other things in my mouth! Simplicity is key, less is more.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Summer, all those amazing fruits, so tasty! And more people tend to dine out when the sun is shining!

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
When I’m at home on a Sunday with my gorgeous family and friends, and we have a huge roast in front of us and everyone is smiling. That is what good food is really about. It doesn’t have to have an accolade attached to it or be in an overpriced restaurant. Just super tasty, humble food with great company made with love.

How do you come up with new dishes?
By having a spoon in your pocket and always tasting everything, sometimes you’ll stumble across a combination of flavours you never thought about. A great dish is like life, it’s all about balance, is it sweet, sour, creamy, seasoned etc? Most chefs don’t get this but it’s definitely the most important thing about creating a great dish.

Who was your greatest influence?
Literally every chef I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside. They all push you in unique ways some teach you great things and others how not to do it. It’s all learning and makes us improve. We must remember and respect the elders who paved the way for us so it’s important to learn the classics as well as the new techniques.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Anthony Bourdain – rest well Chef, Gordon & Jamie. All have done so much for our industry and the public, they are huge influences for everyone and have made it cool to be able to cook well at all levels.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Ah too many to choose! Kitchen confidential, Larousse Gastronomique, Herring’s Dictionary, Naked Chef, Passion for Flavour, White Heat, oh and whoever has my copy of Est Est Est Marriages by Donovan Cooke please return it, that’s one of my favourites too!

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Most chefs in the limelight at the moment are too busy making million pound deals and worrying what sports car to buy, I’m interested in what chefs are doing for the industry and the next generation of youngsters. Let’s teach the kids how to use their time well, harness their creativity and lead with love, take care of one another in our fragile industry and support rather than compete. One maniac that I love to watch at the moment is that Dirty Vegan Mathew Pritchard, his food looks super tasty!

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
My dear friends of the Black Goo family, they have created a fantastic business model with the best vibe, I’m so proud of them all! My favourite place to eat with my wife & kids by far. I can’t wait for the next one! Big love x