Talk us through your background and why you decided to take up the head chef role at Forest Side?
I started off at English Lakes Hotels and did an apprenticeship for two years. I decided I wanted to work for a Michelin-starred restaurant so went to Sharrow Bay and then went onto the Gilpin Lodge. I then worked for Simon Rogan at L' Enclume for eight years as sous chef and head forager. In my ninth year I joined Rogan & Co as head chef. While there I maintained three rosettes and went up a notch in the Good Food Guide.
It was then that Andrew Wildsmith approached me about Forest Side and I said yes. The location is fantastic and I wanted to move into the Lakes. I have 100 per cent control of the menu and good staff numbers.
What are you plans for the menu?
I am going to do a 12-course tasting menu and primarily a five or six choice a la carte menu. I'll be using Cumbrian produce where I can I won't shoot myself in the foot if I can't get what I want from round here but I'll try. I have good relations with the local farmers and am going to go to them directly to source our meat. When you get a whole animal is when you get the best out of it.
Our fish supplier is from Cornwall but that is because their fish is the best. I did an exchange in Helsinki a few years back and they use a lot of fresh water fish such as Zander, Pike and Perch. It would be good to get more of that on the menu. In terms of vegetables we will be growing the majority ourselves.
You are well-known for favouring foraging – will this remain part of your offer?
I won’t be doing as much foraging myself as before, but I will be teaching the guys how to go out and do it in the mornings. Foraging to me is not a trend. It is something I have done for years as I was raised in the country and it was a way of life. We forage everything and it’s limitless.
It is coming up to mushroom season and when we open in September there will be quite a lot of fungi on the menu. There is also a kitchen garden and we will have about 60 beds eventually growing everything we need - from carrots to chives.
Are you planning to grow or forage any interesting ingredients?
We are looking at growing sea herbs this year. We have one in at the moment that is working well called oyster plant. They are hard to grow in a kitchen garden away from the coast, so we are looking to see if we can replicate the soil structure.
I am also looking at using rowan berries from the Mountain Ash tree. They taste of marzipan if you infuse them in milk and you can make ice cream from them. Once the berries have been through the flowering process they have a very tart and overpowering flavour, so it could be a challenge working with them.
How are you going to deal with seasonality?
I will be looking more at preserving food, which is something that is growing in popularity now. I will be lacto-fermenting and pickling produce now that we can use in the winter. Even in December when there is not a lot around you can get round it by using preserves. It makes for a more interesting menu.
We make our own wines but we can’t serve it to the customers as it’s not the right quality, but it is a flavour we can put into a stock to use later in the year.
We are going to cure a lot of our own meats as well and do it professionally on a larger scale. They won't just be hanging in a fridge but will be stored in a PH controlled unit. The opportunities are great.