Chef of The Week: Kuba Winkowski, Head Chef of The Feathered Nest Inn at Nether Westcote, Oxfordshire

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

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking came from a love of eating good, tasty and varied food. At home, cooking was basic and repetitive, so I started cooking myself. My main training was at Thanet College Broadstairs (now East Kent College) and Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Freedom of expression and I love to make people happy by great hospitality and imaginative food.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Garlic, herbs and spices.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Stove and a frying pan.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Informal dining with lots of small dishes coming at different times when they are ready.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down? 
Not tasting your own food and forgetting that we are cooking for customers not for ourselves – chefs can be too cheffy at times.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
The game season because of the bold flavours you get from the wild, but also because it’s natural and healthy. Between October and the end of January, 100% of the meat on my menu is game.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Wild boar from the Forest of Dean with sour winter slaw, ceps and quince. Great local, unique produce mix with some of my Polish heritage.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I look what is in season, what our local farmers are growing, classic flavour combinations and research for some unusual ingredients. Than taste, taste, taste.

Who was your greatest influence?
There is quite a few different influences at different stages of my development. The biggest ones and the most important ones are Gary Jones and Raymond Blanc from Le Manoir.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Raymond Blanc, Pierre Koffmann and Thomas Keller.

What is your favourite cookbook?
There are few firm favourites but The French Laundry by Thomas Keller must be one of my all time favourites.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Ollie Dabbous with his new opening.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Koj in Cheltenham.