Chef of the Week – Stephen Carter, Head Chef at Boodles, London

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
16 years.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My parents had a hotel as did my uncle and aunt, my fathers’ brother and sister, and I worked from an early age with them all odd jobbing and working in the kitchens. One of their chefs took a shine to me and encouraged me the take a job as an apprentice when I left school at the Royal Hotel in Scarborough. I subsequently went to Scarborough College to do my 705/6 catering qualification where I soon realised, I wanted to learn more and from better establishments. I needed to be in a bigger city so I headed for London at 18 years of age and the Savoy beckoned.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love the diversity in all we do; from writing menus, to sourcing products and ideas from different areas and countries. I love working with people, giving them enjoyment and motivating, encouraging, and nurturing a future generation of cooks, sustaining a future for the industry. That’s what does it for me.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter, eggs and extra virgin olive oil.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Speed peeler.

What food trends are you spotting now?
You could say plant-based ingredients are trendy nowadays, but I don’t follow treads really. I watch what sells and I have found that simpler dishes, using a prime component, is what my clientele are looking for.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
A lot of chefs think they are a higher level than they actually are and have no underpinning skills, most eventually collapsing. Learn the basic skills then develop your own from there.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
My favourite time of the year, and for the club, is by far is the Game season. As soon as the grouse start coming in August, I only put grouse on the menu until November. Then it’s all other game feathered and furred – grey partridge, veal, pigeon, brown hare and deer. In late November -December, when the dark moonlit nights come, and the Siberian winds bring us some woodcock and snipe, I am in my element.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
My own black pudding which I serve with slices of foie gras, all of our game dishes and we also specialise in soufflés – savoury and sweet. We currently have 12 on the menu, plus we have developed gluten and diary free versions!

How do you come up with new dishes?
Through a collaboration with all my chefs.

Who was your greatest influence?
Paul Bocuse.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Christian Delteil, Phillip Howard and Rowley Leigh.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Salt Fat Acid Heat, but this changes often as I have a big collection of books.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Cyril Lignac at Bar des Prés. Also, Jack Croft and Will Murray at Fallow Restaurant.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Bar des Prės in Albemarle Street.