6 Apr 2011

I am often asked who is my favourite chef, who inspires me, what or who rocks my culinary boat. I then begin to think and ponder - I suppose I wonder what hat I am wearing, food lover, chef, cook, owner or someone who just likes eating, difficult question and one I am going to enjoy talking about!

Many years ago I would have been excited about guys who prepared fantastic food that looked amazing. They used new and advanced techniques, describing their food with language I had not heard before, food so far away from what I did that I would have been totally blown away!
This food was to be worshipped, done for the wow factor, all show and potentially no depth, don’t get me wrong there are some superstar chefs out there who have got it all, talent, skill, professionalism, ethics, skill, you name it, every remit under the sun to be world class. But I have realised they are few and far between the norm, so in my early years I just idolised the chefs who did pretty pictures and talked rubbish!
So as an older, wiser, educated, more informed person, I tend to look to people like Shaun Hill, Simon Hopkinson, George Perry Smith, Elisabeth David from the old guard and the new guns like Nathan Outlaw, Martin Wishart and Andrew Fairle. Obviously there are many more, but these  talented individuals stand out to me for people to who taste and flavour are of paramount importance and customer satisfaction is key, they love to feed people and give simple enjoyment of their craft. 
My idea of great food is all about enjoyment, back to basics, the classics, simple tasty and flavorsome, great ingredients, locally produced, enjoyed with friends in a great atmosphere. 
I have been cooking for nearly thirty years now and the things I really rate, food and drink wise, are as follows: 
Best bread - La Tante Clare 
Best seafood starter - Airds, Port Appin (langoustines fresh from the creel)
Best starter - Francos, Thai pork appetiser 
Best main course - Simon Hopkinson, Bibendum, steak au poivre 
Best fish main course - Scott’s, Dover sole meuniere 
Best steak - Clive Davidson, Champney Inn 
Best bottle of wine - Charlie Palmer Steak, Screaming Eagle
Best beer - Thornbridge Brewery, Lord Marples
Best food - Nobu 
Best dessert - The Box Tree, Ilkley, rose water ice cream 
I think I will add to this list forever and ever ...till the day I die!
Places that I really respect in the Yorkshire area, who have a great reputation through hard work, great product, always investing in their business, always busy, at the top of the game - these people are the real life and soul of our great industry: The Magpie Cafe in Whitby, The Star Inn at Harome, The Three Acres at Shelley, Sous Le Nez in Leeds, Baldwins in Sheffield and BB’s Criterion in Leeds - these are the guys who impress me and inspire me to do better, re-focus and keep pushing on, so happy cooking!

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