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Dean Butler, chef de cuisine, Sandy Lane, Barbados

20 July 2006

Dean Butler began his career as a chef in London with event caterer Mosimann's Party Service. A decade on, he has just landed the job of chef de cuisine at one of the world's most exclusive resorts, Sandy Lane in Barbados. He talks to Emily Manson

You've got what sounds like a dream job - what's it really like?
If you tell anyone where you work, everyone just goes: "Wow." It is beautiful - but it's also hard work. The hardest thing is the mentality - the pace of life is a lot slower here, which can be frustrating. In fact, it's the biggest challenge.

How did you get the job?
I used an agency and, within 48 hours, I was flown over here for three days and had various meetings with chief executives, managers and chefs. I also had a cook-off, where I had to prepare seven different courses.

What did you make for the cook-off? I just tried to make the food different and exciting. I'd had dinner here the first evening and it was very nice but nothing really new, so I just tried some interesting combinations mixed with classical dishes. I prepared foie gras and tarragon ravioli with truffle essence, followed by shepherd's pie shot, which was quite fun. I also made a slow-poached fillet of veal with sweet potato purée, green asparagus, Parmesan and pesto dressing. You need to have quite light and refreshing food because it's so hot here.

You were previously at the famous Burj Al Arab hotel. What's the difference between Dubai and Barbados? The pace. Things do get done here but they happen at a much slower speed. Patience isn't one of my strong points, but it's a new skill I'm having to develop.

Where do you get your inspiration? From things I've done in the past, reading books and bouncing ideas off new colleagues. It's amazing how much you can come up with through brainstorming ideas. Ninety-nine per cent of dish combinations have been done before, so it's all down to interpretation and making the dish yours - that's the real key.

How do you find the local ingredients? There's a lot of strange fruit that I've never seen before, but the biggest thing is the seafood - there are just so many different types of local fish that I haven't cooked before. It's all very good quality and extremely fresh, and it's great fun to have new foods to create dishes around.

What do you do on your days off? I spend a lot of time lying on the beach. After Dubai, I do quite like the sun, and the beach is a one-minute walk from where I live, so I'm learning to dive and play golf. At the moment, I'm also exploring a lot of the island, which is incredibly beautiful.

Do you miss anything about London? I do miss my friends and family. If I could live in London for the summer and then move somewhere warm for winter, when it's dark and miserable, that would be ideal.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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