Carl joined Parsons as Head Chef this summer and he’s now a solid part of the team, bringing creative flair, a love for seasonal produce and a lot of passion and hard work to the team. Together we’ve created our Christmas menus, head to the menu section of the website to take a look at them. Here we chat to Carl and learn a little bit more about what makes him tick…
Were you interested in cooking as a child?
Yes, but originally not because of the food! In secondary school home economics was the most popular subject with the girls, so naturally I signed up as a way to meet them. Through doing so though I discovered a love for flavours and inventive cooking, I’d go home with so many ideas and take over the kitchen – which my mum loved because she was a terrible cook!
What’s your earliest food memory?
I’m dyslexic so had a tutor to help me with my school work when I was a child. When I was about 9 as a treat she took me to see 101 Dalmatians at the cinema and then to a restaurant afterwards. I’ll never forget it, it was the first time I’d ever been to a restaurant and it blew me away, I ate pan fried chicken breast with mushrooms and baby onions and totally fell in love with the whole experience.
How did you turn your passion for food into a career?
I originally trained as an Aston Martin mechanic, restoring DB5s and DB4s. I love cars but it wasn’t the same as being in the kitchen, nothing changes with car engines, once you know how they work they stay the same. So I left, but having no chef experience had to start from the bottom again. I got a job as a kitchen porter at acclaimed Restaurant 192; I left 5 years later as a Sous Chef and have been working with food ever since.
What do you love most about your job?
Cooking with fresh ingredients. I’ve met some amazing and interesting people over the years and it’s this, along with the buzz of the kitchen and the chance to learn something new everyday that keeps things exciting. Nothing is ever the same, there are always new flavours and new techniques to experiment with, I’m constantly learning things.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve ever cooked for?
Cooking at Clarence House was a huge honour and catering for Damien Hurst’s birthday parties was enormous fun.
What’s been your most memorable event to cater for?
For one of Damien Hurst’s themed birthday parties he requested for the whole room to be decorated in pigs heads. That was an experience.
What are your favourite kinds of ingredients to work with?
Fresh ones, always. Wild mushrooms, courgette flowers. Anything unusual and seasonal.
What’s the most challenging thing about working with food?
The hours and the stress level. You either love it or hate it.
Do you have a fail-safe dish that always works to please a crowd?
Wild mushrooms on brioche with truffle oil and poached duck egg.
What other hobbies do you have away from cooking?
I love bikes, so motorbike and pushbike riding are massive passions, my father and I used to go and watch 24 hours of Le Mans each year. I also grow my own vegetables and love gardening.
If you couldn’t have been a chef what career would you have chosen?
Diving instructor. I learnt when I was in Greece opening a restaurant. I used to dive and catch my own octopus to cook – you don’t get fresher than that!
Finally, what’s your absolutely favourite food?
A proper roast dinner. Pork in particular, with all the trimmings. But it has to be at home, I like to put everything on the table and for everyone to help themselves.