This week, it’s the turn of Barny Haughton, 61, head chef at The Royal Oak in Bishopstone.
Tel: 01793 790481
Helen Browning has been farming organically at Eastbrook Farm in Wiltshire since 1986. Her pub, The Royal Oak, in the middle of the farm, is listed (amongst others) by Michelin in their top 500 food pubs 2011; Good Food Guide 2012 and the Good Pub Guide 2012
When did you first take an interest in cooking, and when did you decide you wanted to become a chef?
The first sparks at age seven, ignited in France age 11. I never really decided to become a chef, but took it up with my first restaurant, aged 34.
Where did you do your training? No formal training – I learnt how by reading, eating out a lot, working in restaurant kitchens as a student and by trial and error on the job.
How would you describe the style of food served in your restaurant?
Inclined towards southern French/Italian, but in the end you try and cook well whatever people want – which at the Royal Oak means using brilliant ingredients from Eastbrook Farm and other organic and local producers and making them taste as delicious as possible with the least possible fuss.
Do you have a signature dish? If so, what?
No. Wild rabbit and girolles with polenta flour pappardelle would be up there. though.
What would you order from your own menu?
Pork rillettes with a parsley salad, grilled mackerel (or fresh pasta – see below) with purple sprouting broccoli, red onion and anchovies, Seville orange Bakewell tart, cheese and a bottle of Adobe Sauvignon Blanc.
Your favourite vegetable, and why?
Impossible quëstion, but if you held a gun to my head I would say potato – a profoundly humble but limitlessly versatile vegetable.
And favourite dessert?
Almost any item of fruit in season at its absolute zenith of scent, taste and texture. Maybe a peach out of all of them.
Do you cook a lot at home? What sort of food?
If I am on my own I don’t cook at all, but if it’s for others I tend to cook what I think people will enjoy. But you can’t go wrong with pasta and a really good sauce – of, say purple spouting broccoli, anchovies, chilli and parsley, which works with mackerel too (see above).
Where else locally do you like to eat?
I am ashamed to say I haven’t been anywhere nearer than Bristol – where I eat at Flinty Red & Lido – but I should remedy this.
Why should people come to Royal Oak?
Because, at its best, it serves great food, the front of house staff are lovely, it’s warm in the cold months, the garden is lovely in the warm ones and because it is uncompromising in its sourcing of ingredients. It’s one thing to make such claims, but pretty difficult to do it with authenticity. The Royal Oak manages it in spades.