Chef of the Week: Tom Browning, Head Chef at Lewtrenchard Manor in Devon

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have been at Lewtrenchard Manor for 5 years now. Taking over the reigns on the first of August.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I know it is cliché, but I learnt to love cooking from my grandparents. My Granddad was a chef in the army and my Nan was a very good home baker! Some of my earliest memories are being in the kitchen with those two. 

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The family that you gain for life. Once you start working in professional kitchens you will instantly meet colleagues that will become friends for life, some will be more like family.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter – Fat is flavour
Lemons- Every chef has a favourite acid in my opinion, mine is lemon juice
Salt- Everyone know the importance of seasoning

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
A stick blender! It’s the most versatile piece of equipment in the kitchen by far.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I think a national trend at the moment is an increase in interest in high end dining. The general consumer seems to be willing to spend more money on a dining experience opposed to a quick bite to eat. This is great news for chefs who work in fine dining/high end cooking establishments.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
A lack of seasonality knowledge. In this day and age you can source any type of ingredient you want, whether it is in season or not. This stops chefs from feeling they need to cook with the seasons. Something I am very passionate about.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Early Summer, we have an amazing kitchen garden at the hotel, in the late spring and early summer it starts to flourish. An abundance of phenomenal vegetables come through, this makes our lives in the kitchen far easier.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I would struggle to pick a single dish that I am most fond of. We test ideas on a daily basis at Lewtrenchard Manor, so if we don’t feel proud of it at that stage it won’t make the cut!

How do you come up with new dishes?
My style of food is completely ingredient led. I have a close working relationship with all of my suppliers and speak to them all most days. We discuss what ingredients are great at the time and I will design a dish around this. I would much rather create a dish this way instead of trying to source an ingredient once a menu is written.

Who was your greatest influence?
My Grandparents, without a doubt. They have such a phenomenal work ethic.

Tell us three chefs you admire
My team at Lewtrenchard Manor- I know this isn’t an individual, but the boys and girls in the kitchen (and front of house) work incredibly hard to keep the place running to a high standard.

Matt Peryer- The old head chef at the hotel, he taught me (almost) everything I know about running a kitchen.

Simon Rogan- His attitude towards food and the way it’s treated is inspiring.

What is your favourite cookbook?
This is impossible to answer, it changes weekly, Eleven Madison park is brilliant, Larousse Gastronomic is a bible, and I have just brought a book called ‘FLOUR WATER SALT YEAST’ BY Ken Forkish. Which is obviously about bread, it’s a good read.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
There’s loads, in Devon, James Mason at Kentisbury Grange is smashing it. So are Jude Kereama and Chris Eden in Cornwall. Ben Murphy, the Head Chef at Launceston Place in London is doing great things too. So much good food in the country at the moment.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Lympstone Manor has to be up there, I haven’t had a chance to visit yet, but if Michael’s time at Gidleigh Park is anything to go by it must be phenomenal. Also, any of Gary Ushers places, he is taking the north of England by storm!