Somerset Food Heroes - A Grand Tradition
PUBLISHED: 17:04 21 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:23 20 February 2013
In the first of a new series we meet one of Somerset's food heroes: head chef at The Mount Somerset Hotel and Spa in Taunton
Somerset Food Heroes A Grand Tradition
In the first of a new series we meet one of Somersets food heroes: head chef at The Mount Somerset Hotel and Spa in Taunton
Dont be fooled by Stephen Walker youthful looks - the head chef has more than a quarter of a century of experience working in the food industry up and down the country.
Originally from Lincolnshire, Stephen spent a short but eye opening six months at The Savoy before settling in the Cotswolds to work at the Swan at Bibury under Shaun Naen and Stephen Bulmer who, he says, really opened his eyes to the world of cooking.
He then went to the Kings Arms at Didmarton as their chef and manager, which he says gave him a real insight into how to run a business as well as a kitchen. After that he gained two Rosettes at Stone House Court. Today he is head chef at The Mount Somerset Hotel and Spa in Taunton.
My idea of food heaven is fresh bread straight out of the oven. It doesnt matter what bread it is as long as it is freshly baked and warm.
Who is your food hero?
It is difficult just to choose one food hero as I have worked with some great people so I will narrow it down to three who have really influenced me and my food over the last 15 years. They are Shaun Naen, James Parkinson & Simon Haigh. These great chefs have made me what I am today and because of that they have to be my food heroes
How would you describe your food style?
We describe our food as traditional, but use modern methods to lighten and bring new vision to old classics.
Who has been your greatest food influence?
The three guys Ive already mentioned have helped to shape me and my food by just being great supporters and mentors.
How important is seasonality in your menu?
Seasonality is very important to us here at The Mount Somerset. We want to use ingredients at their best and that, of course, means using them when they are in season. We dont want to use asparagus from Peru in December, it just wont be at its best. We even make sure that the fruit we serve in our bedrooms is seasonal! At the moment we are using English pears and apples from Somerset.
What is your favourite flavour of Somerset?
I love White Lake Cheese! I currently have it on my cheese board and I am also using their goats curd on one of our desserts - it really is stunning!
What ingredient couldnt you do without?
The beef I get from my butcher, Turtons of Devon. It is sublime! They rear Aberdeen Angus Blacks with local farmers and we are always complimented on the quality when we serve it in our dishes.
What was your most memorable meal?
I made it to the finals of the Wedgwood Chef & Potter competition several years ago and my boss at the time paid for me to go to Nicos and it was amazing. I had veal sweetbreads, which I can still picture and taste and it was over ten years ago so that says something!
Why did you become a chef?
My father was in the industry and it just seemed natural to go and help him out and by then I was hooked. I loved it from the first moment and I believe being a chef is definitely a vocation.
What is your food heaven?
I love fresh bread straight out of the oven. It doesnt matter what bread it is as long as it is freshly baked and warm.
What is your idea of food hell?
A certain golden arched takeaway! Unfortunately I am forced to take my three boys in there occasionally as a treat. As a dad there are some things I cant avoid but I certainly dont enjoy it.
Whats going to be big in 2013?
Thats a very hard question! We have seen such a change in our industry over the last few years but the one thing I am certain of is that the industry will keep moving traceability. Even the dreaded fast food restaurants can see how important this is as people want to know where their food comes from.I hope we continue to use more and more of this countrys natural produce and look after our farmers and resources