Chef Liam Dillon struck out on his own and bought the Boat Inn in Lichfield, Staffordshire, last year. He talks to Katherine Price about choosing a new kitchen for the restaurant over a Lamborghini and how he is slowly transforming the site
What is your background?
I've been lucky enough to work for some very influential chefs. Without working for Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley when I was younger as a commis, I don't think I would be where I am now.
I think that my time at Story as a senior chef de partie working for Tom Sellers focused me and gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my own restaurant. I have a lot of admiration for Tom.
What kind of state was the Boat Inn when you bought it?
The building was tired. It was run seven days a week for years with no time for repairs or TLC. I worked at the pub before the purchase was complete to see what needed to be changed in the kitchen. I've worked in some impressive kitchens, so I knew exactly what I wanted and how it should be run. The restaurant has huge potential and a good amount of land and space to develop future plans.
How did you fund the acquisition and the refurbishment?
The acquisition was made as a family and the refurbishments have been, and will be, gradual. There isn't a bottomless pit of money for everything to be done overnight, unfortunately. There are more areas of the restaurant that need to be changed.
When you enter the restaurant you are greeted not only by a member of staff but a huge open kitchen. There is nothing in the area like it and the guests love to see their food being prepared. My sister and mother were the driving force behind the decor. They both did a fantastic job.
How much did you have to spend?
I could have bought a brand new Lamborghini with the money, but unfortunately I can't cook out of one, so a new kitchen it was.
It must have been great being listed in the Michelin guide so quickly, and congratulations on winning Best Chef at this year's Midlands Food, Drink &Hospitality Awards - what's next?
Michelin visited the restaurant three and a half weeks after I signed the contract, when there was only myself and one other person in my team then. I was flattered and didn't expect it. After working in restaurants that have featured in the guide for most of my career, it was a huge privilege. I still have the hand-scribbled order from that day.
To be nominated for an award with the likes of Sat Bains, Aktar Islam and Andy Waters was incredible, but to take the award home was insane. Fantastic for the restaurant and brilliant for Lichfield, too.
What is your vision for the pub?
The main focus is to create a quality, leading food and beverage offering in Lichfield. It would be a lie if I said I didn't have aspirations for a Michelin star. The guide is a true representation of quality establishments, which is our main goal here.
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