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Become a MasterChef with our Chef Director’s cooking at home tips

Since joining the Mallory Court team in 2001, Simon Haigh retained a Michelin star for 10 years. Returning to Mallory Court in 2020 as Chef Director, Simon gives us a taste of his culinary career.

Hi Simon, tell us how did you become a chef?

Growing up, I was surrounded by cooking whether this was at home or at my grandparents, plus I was always interested in what the next meal was.

I wasn’t very academic at school and wanted a job which would be hands on. Initially I wanted to be a joiner as I had enjoyed woodwork at school, but there were no skilled jobs out there as everything was done by machine which wasn’t what I wanted.

Catering college was the next option, I had a look around, thought it looked interesting, so I went for it. I found it easy and for the first time in my life I was the best in the class at something. Food from that day to this has been a passion and I believe it will be until I die.

How would you define your cuisine and do you have a signature dish?

My food is driven by the seasons as I believe this is when the food is at its best flavour-wise. My job is to enhance this flavour, not confuse it, which the ordinary cook might struggle to do.

As a chef you are always constantly trying to evolve dishes and the ones I created a few years ago would not be the same today. But overall, I would like to think that the food we cook has the ethos of being well sourced, flavour driven and cooked sympathetically.

What would you advise for someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

For me the main thing is to have a passion for food. If you have this you won’t work a day in your life, that’s not to say it won’t be hard but it will make it easier and the hurdles you have to jump will not seem as bad.

Do you have a favourite ingredient you like to work with?

My favourite ingredients change according to the season. So it might be the forced pink rhubarb in January or the new season local asparagus in April, the first chanterelles in late summer or the apples in our garden in autumn.

There’s just one criteria that drives my choices and that’s using the best ingredients we can source at Mallory Court Hotel. We can only do this by creating good relationships with suppliers who need to understand our operation, our ethos and our guest’s expectations.

We try to buy as local as possible or even grow our own to reduce food miles, working with Garden Organics to keep the heritage varieties alive which if not used could be lost forever.

And finally, what is your favourite dish at home to cook?

I love cooking a Sunday roast with homemade Yorkshires, as it is the one meal of the week where we sit at the table as a family.

Discover Simon’s 5 top tips for cooking at home

Tip 1 – Plan ahead

When cooking at home, you want to be as organised as possible. You can do things like blanching and refreshing the vegetables, so you are not trying to juggle multiple pans at once.

Tip 2 – Don’t experiment

Remember they’re guests not guinea pigs, so steer away from testing any new concoctions you want to try out and instead serve them something you know they’ll love.

Tip 3 – Have a dish ready

Make sure there are dishes which are prepared before your guests arrive so you don’t spend all your time cooking and can enjoy their company.

Tip 4 – Balance the booze

My advice is always to be careful with alcohol when you’re cooking for the benefit of both you and your guests.

Tip 5 – Ensure you rest

Try and make sure you’re not working the next day after cooking and hosting at home. It can be hard work and tiring – plus you’ll need time to finish the leftovers!

We hope Simon’s passion for food and advice for cooking at home has inspired you to get in the kitchen!