My life in food: Matt Gillan, Head chef, The Pass

'I love Nando's. Is that bad? It's so far away from what I do'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Still considered to be young blood, Matt Gillan has received wide praise over the years for his fresh and original take on high-end cuisine, not to mention bagging four AA Rosettes and a Michelin star in the process. Having worked under the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Clifford, Gillan has created his own mark as head chef at The Pass restaurant in the South Lodge Hotel.

What are your most- and least-used pieces of kitchen kit?

Our most used are the Pacojet and water bath. The Pacojet we use for ice creams, sorbets, mousses, and purées. We use the water bath for long cooking, like our pork belly, which we cook at 68 degrees for 24 hours. It's good for all the tougher cuts of meat. My least-used is a candyfloss machine. It was for a special Halloween dinner, and the dessert was a chocolate spider with candyfloss for cobwebs. We used it once.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I would probably go to Nando's. I love Nando's, I'd get a whole chicken, sweetcorn… is that bad? It's just simple, tasty and it fills you up. It's so far away from what I do here and the kids love it. It has a nice atmosphere.

What do you eat for comfort?

Just what we call "normal people food". Chicken, veg, roast potatoes or a pie. Classic food, if you like. But when I finish work, it's normally a bag of Doritos and some hummus.

If you could eat only bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Potatoes. It's just so much more versatile than bread. I don't think bread makes a very good mash. You can do so much with potatoes: boil them, mash them, fry them and then, from those basics, you can go on to create a whole load more dishes on top.

What's your desert island recipe?

I think it would be lasagne. I think I could live off lasagne for the rest of my life, so I'd take a good recipe for that and hope that there was an oven on this desert island.

What's your favourite restaurant?

I used to work there, so I'm a little bit biased, but Midsummer House in Cambridge. Every time I go, something's changed. It's constantly evolving and, because I was part of the journey in the early days, it's nice to see what it's come to now.

What's your favourite cookbook?

I've got two. One is Alinea by Grant Achatz. The guy just puts so many elements into a dish and makes it work. One dish could have 40 different recipes and however many ingredients. There's always an ingredient you've never heard of or something to get your creative juices going. The other is Sat Bains' Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian. It's just a beautiful book and getting an insight into what he does is amazing. It's a proper chef's book.

Who taught you to cook?

There have been a few along the journey. I didn't stand by my mum's side watching her bake cakes or anything. I learnt to cook by getting into the kitchen, so initially it was my first head chef, Nick Wentworth, who took me under his wing. Then everywhere else I've worked, someone's taught me something different.