The Chef's Table
When did you first take an interest in cooking, and when did you decide you wanted to become a chef?
I have had an interest in cooking since a young age. Visiting my grandmother’s house would often result in being taught how to bake apple pies and things. She’s a retired school dinner lady back from the times when school dinners were good, so I was in safe hands. Whenever my parents took us out to a pub for food, I’d often think ‘I could make this myself’. I then started cooking for my family at home after school. It was occasionally a disaster, which is the only way to learn.
Where did you do your training?
I started cooking by accident. At the time I was the bar manager at the Bell Hotel in my home town of Faringdon. Due to a particularly busy night, the head chef, Tony Moulden, asked me to jump into the kitchen to help out, and this became quite a regular thing. Years later I applied for the head chef position at The Rat Trap. I had no formal catering qualifications, but one trial session later and I was offered the head chef job. I had to learn quickly but it was worth it. Eight years on and I’m still here.
How would you describe the style of food served in your restaurant?
We do everything, from all pub food favourites to dishes from around the world. The specials boards contain dishes which are designed for whatever type of food I’m in the mood for. When I go on holiday, there will usually be a dish on special from whichever country I have visited.
Do you have a signature dish? If so, what?
I don’t have a signature dish because my attention span for food is limited – as soon as a new menu comes out I get bored and I am already thinking about the next thing.
What would you order from your own menu? I would currently order the Tsyplionok Tabake Chicken, known as ‘Moscow’ on my current Olympic menu. It is a seasoned, butter-fried chicken breast on a bed of pan fried new potatoes, onions and cherry tomatoes with a garlic cream sauce. It’s very nice, a bit fattening but who cares when you are out for the night?
Your favourite vegetable, and why?
Who the hell has a favourite vegetable?
Anything with lemon in it, and it’s always a bonus if it contains alcohol as well.
Do you cook a lot at home? What sort of food?
I cook occasionally at home, once a week at best. I usually do a roast or barbecue. One of my favourite dishes to make is lasagne with a central layer of garlic chicken, topped with chorizo and at least four types of cheese. This would always be served with my garlic Italian roast potatoes.
Where else locally do you like to eat?
When I am not working I do like to eat out. My favourites include Jack Spice in the town centre, most Chinese buffet restaurants, the kebab van at Wickes or you can usually find me in The Manor Farm at Haydon Wick – good food and, more to the point, a two minute walk from my house!
Why should people come to The Rat Trap?
Because it really does have something for everybody. The staff are friendly and welcoming, it is a great place to bring the family, the local area produces some of the nicest regulars you would like to meet and I hear the chef’s quite good!