Flash-grilled: Ian Webber

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Ian Webber executive chef Farmers Arms pub devon

Related tags: Chef, Restaurant, Pub, Devon

Ian Webber, formerly head chef of Gidleigh Park, is executive chef of the Grade-II-listed Farmer’s Arms pub in Devon.

What was your first job?
A newspaper round. I had three; one before school, one after and one on Sundays. Carrying 50 Sunday newspapers and the supplements in the rain, sleet and snow at 13 really teaches you the value of hard work.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?  
Hot dogs with loads of onions and mustard, although I tend to avoid the horses hoof variety of frankfurter and stick to a good free-range Cumberland sausage.

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
At Restaurant Tom Aitkens when he had his 2-star flagship in Chelsea.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why? 
Raymond Blanc, a great cook as well as chef, and the filter down effect of his and the Roux brothers’ teachings are probably responsible for why cooking is so strong in this country today. And the cooks who keep getting out of bed every morning when the soles of their feet feel like they have been beaten with a stick and their bodies has been through 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, to go to work in 60°C kitchens with not enough help or hours in the day to get the job done, yet they still push to improve.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
I’d be growing something or looking to repair some of the damage we have done to the planet.

What is your biggest regret?
I don't have any. There's always tomorrow to sort out today’s problems, and everything happens for a reason.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Yoyo learners. If you could do it yesterday but not today, then you probably don't belong in the kitchen.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
This is one of my weaknesses, I don't interact with the customers enough as I'm too engrossed in my cooking in the kitchen.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Bacon and eggs.

Describe your cooking style in three words
Tasty, nature inspired.

Most overrated food?
Cold foie gras terrine. And I don't much like the ideals behind it, but wouldn't tell you not to eat it as that’s your choice to make.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Sous vide cooking, it's deskilling the industry and produces consistently average food. And then there is the waste.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
My own, I think you should always be your own worst critic.

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
I don't feel the need to cook for famous people. It’s more important to exceed the expectations of your regular customers.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Try and do it better each time than the time before.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
The team. You're only as good as the team, both front and back of house. But our Frima is pretty damn cool.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
Anything that involves using as many pots as possible. After all, I’ll delegate the washing up at home.

What’s your earliest food memory? 
Apple scrumping. I'm an honest person, so I have pangs of guilt when I think back to this, but stealing apples from people’s gardens was quite a buzz as a young lad.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Be all you can be! Grandads are pretty wise old things, but again easier said than done.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
There’s been a few. I guess some of us are just lucky, the others didn't make it.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
These days, the beach for a walk with Miranda and my dogs.

Tipple of choice? 

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Spit roast chicken in a baguette from a French market, when you haven't eaten for 24 hrs. Simply amazing.

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