What was the idea behind Obsession all those years ago?
Obsession started as a bit of a pipe dream 19 years ago when I flew over to California and did the Festival of Food and Wine in Monterey. When you ask a lad from Accrington to go to the Carmel Valley in January he’s not going to say no. I slept on a friend’s floor and worked with all the top US chefs, people like Alice Waters and Thomas Keller for a week. I came back to Lancashire very inspired and thought it would be interesting if we could do something similar. We haven’t got the wine growers in the Ribble Valley but we have got some great food growers. I started Obsession in 2001.
What’s new for this year?
We’ve got people coming over who haven’t been to the UK before. Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy from Twins Garden in Moscow are coming to cook, and we’ve never had Russians before [at Obsession] so this is a first for us. It is exciting to have these guys over. It’s great to have Gary Usher cooking as well. He’s probably the most talked about chef in the country at the moment. He’s out there doing some seriously interesting food.
And you’re cooking with some yet to be announced chefs on the final day...
This year for the first time I’m cooking with some friends. I thought that after all these years I would try and change it a little bit so I’ve got a young gang cooking with me - you could say it’s because I don’t have to do as much. There will be four very talented young chefs, so we’ll see what happens there.
And your son Kirk is cooking this year as well
Kirk is cooking with Nelly Robinson from Nel Restaurant in Sydney. Both of these guys are ex apprentices so it’s really nice after 18 years that we’re having back people who have come through the ranks at Northcote. Nelly Robinson is an interesting guy. I always said he should go front of house - so what do I know?
Are you trying to get more young chefs involved?
There’s some great young talent about so it’s about nurturing them. They all want to do Obsession and sometimes I have to be really tough and say I can't fit everybody in. Some are close friends of mine and I get pressurised to include them but I’m also trying to make it interesting for the customers out there so I have to be strong in making sure we have the right chefs.
Do the chefs cook the same food as in their own restaurants?
We encourage them to cook with our local produce. In 2015 when we really went global with our chefs they couldn’t bring all their ingredients with them, whereas some of the British chefs would bring three quarters of their ingredients with them. We always have colleges working with us so we try and get the chefs to use our ingredients - and our suppliers want to supply them with local produce.
Obsession takes place from 18 January to 4 February. The booking line opens at 8am on Tuesday 17 October. Call 0333 999 7762
The Obsession 18 line-up:
Thursday 18 January – Jason Atherton, The Social Company, London
Friday 19 January – Gary Usher, Sticky Walnut, Hoole, Chester
Saturday 20 January – Manish Mehrotra, Indian Accent, India/London
Sunday 21 January – Jean-Philippe Blondet, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Mayfair, London
Monday 22 January – Juan Amador, Amador’s, Vienna, Austria
Tuesday 23 January – Lisa Goodwin-Allen, Northcote, Langho, Lancashire
Wednesday 24 January – Daniel Calvert, Belon, Hong Kong
Thursday 25 January – Hiroshi Nakamichi, Restaurant Molière, Sapporo, Japan
Friday 26 January – George Blogg, Gravetye Manor, West Hoathly, Sussex
Saturday 27 January – Larry Jayasekara, Pétrus, Belgravia, London
Sunday 28 January – Tom Kitchin, The Kitchin, Leith, Edinburgh
Monday 29 January – ‘The three amigos’ Diego Hernandez Baquedano, Corazón De Tierra, Baja California, Mexico; Francisco Ruano, Alcalde, Guadalajara, Mexico; Jorge Vallejo, Quintonil, Mexico City
Tuesday 30 January – Martín Milesi, Una, London
Wednesday 30 January – Jorge Vallejo, Quintonil, Mexico City
Thursday 1 February – Tommy Banks, The Black Swan at Oldstead, Yorkshire
Friday 2 February – Ivan and Sergey Berezutskiy, Twins Garden, Moscow, Russia
Saturday 3 February – Nelly Robinson, Nel Restaurant, Sydney, Australia; and Kirk Haworth, Plates, London
Sunday 4 February – Nigel Haworth, Northcote, Langho, Lancashire