Flash-grilled: Harriet Mansell

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled with Harriet Mansell chef behind Robin Wylde and low-intervention wine bar Lilac in Lyme Regis

Related tags: Harriet Mansell, Chef

The West Country-born chef behind Robin Wylde and recently-launched, low-intervention wine bar Lilac in Lyme Regis on her cooking style, Massimo Bottura, and the greatest pizza she's ever eaten.

What was your first industry job?
I was the vegetable girl at a nearby greengrocers, followed by a kitchen porter at a local tearoom.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I would be pursuing a career in property refurbishment and interior design (which is actually an avenue that I followed for a while). Or perhaps I’d be a yoga teacher.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Massimo Bottura, because of his pure, unadulterated, infectious passion.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Arrogance.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
‘Where is the chef? Will he be coming out this evening?’

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Local; we use ingredients sourced from the surrounding Dorset countryside and the Jurassic coast. 

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
It’s a tricky question, but it’s got to be the knife. If I were to go for something slightly more elaborate: the blender.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
I’ve never thought about it. My last meal is not something I even want to consider.

À la carte or tasting menu?
Tasting menu every time.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
I have two quite polarised contenders. One was the tasting menu I ate at Noma, after my stage there. The other was a pizza I ate after I’d spent the day hiking up and down Stromboli volcano. It was hands down the greatest pizza and beer that I have ever tasted.

Favourite fast food joint?
This is entering into guilty pleasure territory… It’s never not fried chicken.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Lasagne.

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
GBM, of course.

Most overrated food?
Caviar. 

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and Amanda Knox.

What’s your earliest food memory?
An egg mayo sandwich.

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
There have actually been two occasions. I was nearly in a cyclone in Sri Lanka. I was supposed to be going whale watching the morning that it hit, and I made a last minute decision not to go. Tragically everyone who did go died. The other time was when I had my drink spiked in Antigua. I did sustain a couple of injuries, but thankfully I was found before anything worse happened. 

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
To the beach.

Tipple of choice?
Wine.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Have your eyes open and your ears peeled. Absorb; stay alert, learn and commit.

Related topics: Chef, People, Profiles

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