The head chef at House of Tides in Newcastle talks to Katie Pathiaki about how he got into cooking, who he looks up to in the industry and what he learned during his time on MasterChef: The Professionals
Did you always want to be a chef?
I always thought I was going to follow in my dad's footsteps and join the army, but when I was 14 I got a job washing pots in the local pub (the Talbot in Bishopton, Cleveland) and I loved the energy and buzz in the kitchen. One day someone didn't turn up and I was asked to start peeling the spuds. Before I knew it, I was enrolled at college on a catering course.
What did you learn from working at the pub?
When I was at the pub I learned how to do a lot of the basics, including knife skills. We were chopping 25kg-50kg of potatoes a day for chips or mash!
Who inspired you to start cooking?
When I left the pub I began working at Wynyard Hall in County Durham with Alan O'Kane. That's when it clicked. I started to respect the ingredients and come up with exciting ideas and it became more than just a job.
How did you come to start working at House of Tides?
I had handed in my notice at Wynyard Hall with the intention to go travelling; however, in the end, I decided not to. I had previously done an event with Kenny [Atkinson, chef-patron of House of Tides], so I dropped him a message asking if he needed a sous chef. A few days later he invited me to the restaurant and took me on.
What is Kenny like to work with? Would you consider him a mentor?
Kenny is 100% a mentor. He has guided me over the last three years, not just with cooking, but with the managerial aspects of running a business too. I think the best thing is that Kenny is a chef as well as a businessman. If I come up with a dish, he will sit with me and help me adapt it or work on the recipe with me in the kitchen.
Working for someone with such a wealth of knowledge, not just about food, but the industry as a whole, is priceless. And you can add to that the fact that he's one of the nicest blokes that you'll ever meet.
What do you love most about your job?
That we help people to enjoy themselves. Also, I love that the industry is limitless. You can work anywhere in the world, cook anything you want and, to a certain extent, you can't be wrong about anything (except for the fundamentals). It's exciting to see an idea you had come to life on the plate. To understand cooking is incredible and it really is a job where you learn every single day.
How would you describe your cooking style?
I would describe my food as modern British. Britain is so diverse and I think it's important that food reflects that. I like to use traditional, simple flavours, different temperatures, textures and tastes.
You were on MasterChef: The Professionals in 2014 and got through to the final four. What did you learn from that?
I learned so much about myself on the show, but I also learned a lot about other people and their cooking styles. The show is designed to expose your weaknesses and it helps you to better yourself. Gaining feedback from Marcus Wareing and Monica Galetti, even for a short time while filming, was incredible.
Who do you think is the best ambassador for the hospitality industry and why?
I look up to Tom Kitchin as he champions the produce of Scotland as well as interacting and working with young chefs in colleges and offering apprenticeships. He has shown that through hard work and believing in people you can achieve your goals.
Would you recommend the industry to others?
I would. There are few industries that give you such ambition and a sense of achievement, day in, day out. However, I think the next generation of chefs are going to change the industry; they're going to demand better pay, a better working environment and better hours.
What do you hope to achieve in your career in the future?
I would like my own restaurant in the countryside that shows off my personality, from the decor to the food. Somewhere people travel to come to and are excited at the prospect of not just having a fantastic meal, but a fantastic experience as a whole. I want them to leave understanding a bit more about myself, both as a chef, and as a person, and obviously having enjoyed themselves.