Michael Wignall is the executive chef of the Michelin-starred Latymer at Pennyhill Park, Exclusive Hotels’ Surrey country house property. He has previously held Michelin stars for Waldo’s at Cliveden House, Old Beems in Waterhouses, Michael’s Nook and the Devonshire Arms.
If you’ve had a Michelin star before the inspectors are always keen to follow you. I don’t think they’re biased but there’s definitely more interest in you because you’ve had one before, so they are quicker to follow wherever you go.
I’d like to work in London at some point; that was the whole intention when I moved back down south, to be closer to the city. You just get better opportunities there really. The next step will take me to London I suppose.
Every time I leave somewhere I say to myself I’ll never work in a country house hotel again, but here we are again.
I’ve always tried to run The Latymer as a separate restaurant rather than a run-of-the-mill country house hotel restaurant. I’ve always tried to do quite modern food in an oldy-woldy setting.
I used to be a sponsored BMX rider at school, but as my parents didn’t want me to be a professional biker I fell into catering instead. I’ve still always been into sports though, it’s important to get a bit of stress relief in this job.
You don’t see many shapely chefs that can do 16 hours a day at that size - you won’t last very long.
Chefs just need to hit the bottle and take drugs and that’s their career gone. It’s very easy to fall in that trap. You do see people who’ve partied and taken drugs a lot in the past, and now they cant concentrate on things for too long and their confidence is shot away. They’ll never get that back. It’s all great while you’re doing it probably but 10 years down the line when you’re 30 everything falls apart. It’s a shame to see so many people waste themselves.
I admire anyone in the industry who puts the hours in. If they show commitment I’ll show commitment back, but you can normally tell if someone’s committed in the first few days. You can tell by the attitude, which is more important than a dazzling CV. I’ve had some fantastic CVs but the people have turned out to be big headed. Every chef has to come into a kitchen open minded.
My dream restaurant would have to be in Napa Valley in San Fransisco, which is my favourite city. Not that I’m that way inclined, its just great. And anyone that’s tolerated me than longer than two years would be my dream team to work with.
I admire Pierre Gangaire. He is getting on a bit but I’ve had one of the best meals I’ve ever had at his place in Paris. I also rate Marcus Wareing and of course The Fat Duck.
Heston Blumenthal’s TV career has got to have diluted the Fat Duck slightly, but I think if anyone had the chance to do what Heston’s done they’d do the same.