My Life in Food: Chris Wheeler, head chef, Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire
'You can't beat a classic english sandwich. I couldn't live without my cheese and marmite'
Thursday 11 April 2013
After leaving Bournemouth catering college in 1993, Wheeler straight away landed a job with Jean-Christophe Novelli. He worked at various restaurants owned by Novelli, including Le Province, Gordleton Mill and the Four Seasons. In 2003, he branched out on his own, becoming head chef at Stoke Park's restaurant Humphry's, which has since won three AA rosettes. On 21 April he will mark his decade in the kitchen by carrying a 5.5kg stockpot on a 26-mile run through Buckinghamshire in aid of Capital FM's charity, Help a London Child.
What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?
Apart from knives, my most used piece of kitchen kit is a Thermomix. It's very versatile and is brilliant for making purées and mousses. You can also use it as a blender and cook in it, too, it's great for things like hollandaise sauce. My least used thing? Kitchen tongs. I'm an old-fashioned chef, I like to use a palette knife or my fingers. I don't suffer from burns.
If you only had £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?
I would go to our local farm shop, Pinewood Nurseries in Stoke Poges. It's where all the local farmers bring their vegetables to sell. They also have some wonderful local bread and "Greek" yogurt, which is made just down the road, but apparently by people with Greek ancestors.
What do you eat for comfort?
Pizza. There's a fantastic restaurant in Notting Hill, called Pizza Metro Pizza where you order it by the metre. The kids love it and so do I.
If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
I'm going to say bread. You can't beat a classic English sandwich with a nice crusty loaf, some ham and piccalilli. Or maybe cheese and marmite. I couldn't live without cheese and marmite sandwiches, or a crusty roll for my soup or eggs on toast, for that matter. And if I did want to cheat, then I could always get some potato bread.
What's your desert island recipe?
The restaurant's roast lamb loin with mini Shepherd's pie. We cook the mincemeat with garlic, celery, carrots and onion and add a rich lamb jus to it with a big glass of red wine. Then we add julienne of mint into the mashed potatoes and serve it on a bed of local root vegetables.
What's your favourite restaurant?
Ealing Park Tavern. It serves the best Sunday roast. It does these spicy dauphinoise potatoes, which are amazing, and really massive Yorkshire puddings.
What's your favourite cookbook?
White Heat by Marco Pierre White. It's Marco at his best. The recipes are amazing and it tells the whole story, from how he started from nothing, begging to get a job, to becoming one of the best chefs in town.
Who taught you to cook?
I got into cooking at school. I was a bit naughty and it was the only subject I really paid attention to. It was taught by a lady called Mrs Widdecombe. She was passionate about food and made sure we tasted and understood different flavours. Then I really got into the professional side of things when I was taught by Jean-Christophe Novelli.
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