Chef of the Week: Paul O’Neill, Head Chef at Cliveden House in Berkshire
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Coming up to two years.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I really developed my passion for cooking when I was working under John Williams at Claridge’s, and that is also where I learnt my skills.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love that I’m continually faced with new challenges and am constantly learning something new. Probably the best thing, aside from creating new and exciting dishes, is the camaraderie in the kitchen, they’re like my second family.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Olive oil, vinegar and salt.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
I couldn’t live without a Victorinox pastry knife. I use one for pretty much everything.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Veganism is still a very strong trend and it’s always exciting to come up with new and innovative ways to adapt our vegan offering.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Over complicating dishes by incorporating too many ingredients of processes. I think it’s important to pare things back and take a simpler approach, letting each individual ingredient shine.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
I love hearty autumnal dishes and vegetables that need a little more love and respect but give just as much joy when properly treated.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My dishes are constantly changing and evolving so it would be really difficult to name just one that I’m proud of.
How do you come up with new dishes?
Firstly I’ll start with choosing a protein. Then I’ll look at seasonality and work with complementary ingredients to make that protein really shine. Focusing on showcasing those ingredients using different textures and tastes; sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.
Who was your greatest influence?
It’s difficult to choose between the Roux’s, so I would say Michel Roux, Albert Roux, Alain Roux and Michel Roux Jnr have all been great influences on me as a chef.
Tell us three chefs you admire
John Williams as I trained under him at Claridge’s, André Garrett, and Clare Smyth because I think her work at Core is inspirational.
What is your favourite cookbook?
Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking by Fergus Henderson.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Ben Murphy at Launceston Place, Mark Birchall and Luke Selby.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Roux at Skindles.