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Meet the head chefs of the Cotswolds

PUBLISHED: 15:56 12 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:25 15 October 2018

DisobeyArt / Getty Images

DisobeyArt / Getty Images

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Here’s our pick of some of the very best chefs from our local pubs, restaurants and hotels in and around the Cotswolds and sharing their advice and tips on how they made themselves and their businesses successful

Jon Lane

The Royal Oak, The Street, Leighterton, GL8 8UN

01666 890 250 /

Growing up in local pub kitchens, I found a passion for cooking. I joined the team at The Old Passage, Arlingham, working under head chef Mark Redwood. Taking over the head chef position, I went on to receive the Cotswold Life Best Restaurant award, before moving to The Royal Oak.

Who or what inspires you? I love using fresh local produce, meeting suppliers and walking around the markets where I gather ideas for using ingredients in a way that is interesting and new. Social media has opened the door to inspiration from chefs from around the world.

How would you describe your approach to food? Flavour and quality of ingredients is key for me. I constantly look at ways to extract and combine the most enjoyable flavours into a dish from the ingredients that are available at the time. I particularly enjoy re-working classics with my own touch.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? Over my years working in kitchens, I have learnt a lot from fellow chefs and from my own experiences. I have learnt that there is no such thing as bad ideas, as long as you come up with the ideas in the first place.

Jon Lane, The Royal Oak in LeightertonJon Lane, The Royal Oak in Leighterton

Rory Lee Emmerson

Egypt Mill Hotel, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire GL6 0AE

01453 833449 /

I have been a professional chef for over 14 years and spent the last few years working locally. My thesis, keep it local, keep it fresh and provide the best one can achieve within and around good food.

Who or what inspires you? Using fresh local produce in a magical way to achieve a great tasting dish you will not only appreciate but be taken back to your roots. Food is the coming together of friends and family, I am proud to be involved in a trade that achieves this daily.

How would you describe your approach to food? Knowledge in produce is power, understanding in seasons is king, but knowing the balance of how to connect the two takes time. Never stop learning, asking questions or lose the passion that first sets you off on your food journey. The best chefs to date all started somewhere.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? “Never give up and you will achieve what you’re looking for.” This was a quote from a great manager of my past whose words push me still today.

Rory Lee Emmerson, Egypt Mill HotelRory Lee Emmerson, Egypt Mill Hotel

Szabi Szabo

Arrow Mill, Arrow, Alcester, B49 5NL

01789 333790 /

I’m Szabi, Head Chef at the Arrow Mill, Alcester. I’m from the little village of Palást, Slovakia. Just over 10 years ago, I asked my father to drop me at the airport with intentions of returning, yet the following week I joined Brunning and Price here in England and have worked for them ever since. I’m joined here by my wife and our beautiful boy, Oliver.

Who or what inspires you? I have a great passion for good food and getting creative with flavours. There’s just something about gathering a load of new ingredients and finding your way with them!

How would you describe your approach to food? I’d say I’m refined yet traditional. I love to create something that’s delicate and beautiful in appearance yet I still find beauty in rustic, hearty meals.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? The 6 P’s! Proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance. I use this motto every day with my team, forward thinking is essential when you’re working with fresh food in a busy pub!

Szabi Szabo, Arrow MillSzabi Szabo, Arrow Mill

Mike Burkert

The Angel at Burford, 14 Witney Street, Burford, Oxfordshire, OX18 4SN

01993 822714

Fresh produce is the biggest inspiration for me, taking seasonal produce right from the farm to fork. We’ve recently started working with Ben from Swinbrook Farm. His produce is superb quality and raised just two miles from The Angel. Being able to have full traceability is an important thing for me and our customers.

Who or what inspires you? Honest, simple, not over complicated. It’s about letting the flavours work for themselves. People get lost trying too hard. Don’t use too many components on the plate – maximum of five. Good homemade stocks and sauces and detailed finishing make any dish complete.

How would you describe your approach to food? Flavour and quality of ingredients is key for me. I constantly look at ways to extract and combine the most enjoyable flavours into a dish from the available ingredients. I particularly enjoy re-working classics with my own touch.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? Stay disciplined. From working in my very first kitchen this has focused me on where I wanted to be. It’s not all about shouting and being ‘angry’ as chefs are sometimes portrayed, it’s about guiding and helping the younger generation of chefs.

Mike Burkert, The Angel at BurfordMike Burkert, The Angel at Burford

David Kelman

Cowley Manor Hotel, Cowley, Gloucestershire, GL53 9NL

01242870900 /

A rosetted chef for many years, David is highly visible on the UK food scene. His style aligns perfectly with the ethos of Cowley Manor, which is all about celebrating the land.

Who or what inspires you? I’m inspired by fantastic produce and the changing of the seasons. I enjoy being in the countryside and I take great inspiration from the land and also from our suppliers. I also really enjoy training and developing chefs and work with local colleges.

How would you describe your approach to food? My food is a celebration of the ingredient, presented with restraint I take a less is more stance preferring not to overcomplicate dishes, keeping the hero flavours shining through. As mentioned, I cook with the seasons, respecting the ingredients and getting to know their history and provenance.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? When I was at Lower Slaughter Manor, I was taught to manage my brigade as though I was not there; as the key to success is for your team to be able to deliver whether you’re in the kitchen or not. Training is everything, and I take a back to basics approach.

David Kelman, Cowley Manor HotelDavid Kelman, Cowley Manor Hotel

Sam Valentine

The Plough Inn, Cold Aston, Gloucestershire, GL54 3BN

01451 822 602 /

We took over the lease of The Plough Inn six months ago and want to create dishes you wouldn’t usually eat at home with top quality ingredients. We believe in young, passionate and hard-working people. Sam grew up in Wrexham and had his first job at the age of 13 as a KP. He has an innate skill, great flair and produces truly exceptional dishes.

Who or what inspires you? My first inspiration is my mum and family, they taught me to work hard and never take things for granted. I have worked with a lot of hard working chefs over the years who have left their mark on me as they have pushed me to achieve greater heights.

How would you describe your approach to food? I always think about the customer when making my dishes. I want to give them an experience that they would not have at home and give them a reason to go out. My passion is in creating dishes using local, top quality and seasonal ingredients. We often get whole beasts in and I butcher them myself. I also love cooking seafood and fresh fish and love to let the produce quality speak for itself.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given? Work hard and strive for success. Take criticism as advice and never give up.

Sam Valentine, The Plough InnSam Valentine, The Plough Inn


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