We Grill – Peter Sidwell

Peter Sidwell is a chef and creator of Simply Good Food TV, the app for foodies. He owns the Simply Good Cookery School as well as a food development agency based in the Lake District where his focus is on sharing knowledge, creativity, and innovation. He has featured as a chef and judge on ITV’s Britain’s Best Bakery and Lakes on a Plate for Channel 4.

Tell us about the cookery school…
Situated at the Rheged Centre in Penrith, the gateway to the northern Lake District, I was able to create my own place somewhere I loved, and with 20 years experience I can teach and inspire, chefs and non chefs. My style of cooking is progressive British-inspired food centred around British ingredients. I’m hugely passionate about local ingredients and the Lake District has a wealth of great produce to enjoy which I teach people how to cook. I’m also the executive chef for the Rheged Cafe within the centre, so again I use local hero ingredients to develop a menu that the chefs can create to produce real, honest food, packed full of flavour. At the moment my wild garlic chicken kiev served with British asparagus, new potatoes and garden peas is the big seller. Our position is ideal for a trip to the National Park, so not only is it an amazing location to cook food, the cafe gets lots of tourists and walkers passing through.

Where did your love of food come from?
At school I was a keen rugby player and had a promising career ahead of me, but at 15 years old I fractured my skull and that put an end to my dream. Unable to play, my mum encouraged me to focus my energy on cooking and got me a Saturday job in the kitchen of our local village pub in Allerthorpe in Yorkshire. I was only prepping the veg, but instantly I felt at home. I loved the buzz of the kitchen, and it was something that suddenly made sense. Once I started to cook it came naturally to me. I remember my first goal was to cook Yorkshire puddings because I loved Yorkshire pudding sandwiches!

What is your career history?
I got an apprenticeship with the Ambassador Hotel when I was 16. After 18 months I then got a job at Harveys under Marco Pierre White. I then moved to the York Pavilion Hotel as chef, then onto the Fresh Food Company Bakery in York as a baker. I moved to HSBC London as a development chef within the Sodexo Group and four years later moved to Keswick to set up my own business Simply Good Taste which was a deli, bakery and restaurant. After eight years, I sold the restaurant and in 2011 opened the cookery school.

What chefs have inspired you?
Marco Pierre White, Jamie Oliver, Thomas Keller but Marco Pierre White was key to my career. When I worked under him at the Ambassador he taught me to understand the ingredients and then blend it with the technique. Good cooking starts with good shopping, and that’s something that has stuck with me to this day.

You’re from York, what is your favourite local dish?
Without doubt a good Yorkshire pudding served as a starter, with loads of onion gravy. It’s just modest, humble food that tastes so great.

Advice you’d give to a young chef?
If you can, try and work for at least four different, fantastic chefs who are willing to share their knowledge to help you become a rounded chef. Who you work for defines the kind of chef you will become, so it matters who you chose to work and learn from.

Hobbies outside the kitchen?
I love fly fishing, getting out in the fells and cooking outside with family and friends.

Favourite food?
Marmite. I could eat it all day, everyday! I also love bread. There is something very exciting about a collection of simple ingredients turning into an amazing loaf of bread. I particularly like walnut sourdough, which is a really good crusty loaf with a blend of flours, but the walnuts have to be roasted.

Favourite restaurants?
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London is consistently amazing, and has fantastic attention to detail. Overseas it is French Laundry in Yountville, California because everything about Thomas Keller’s restaurant is right; beautiful cooking with wonderful ingredients.

What’s a common mistake lots of chefs make when baking?
Not making their bread dough wet enough. They end up adding more flour to knead bread in when all it needs is a good knead for 10-15 minutes with no added flour.

What ingredients are you looking forward to using this summer?
Fresh fish, because now is the best time for cooking with fish. I have a great relationship with a local fishmonger and he texts me from the markets telling me what’s come in from the boat that day; which in a matter of hours is then served onto my customer’s plate. Delicious. You can’t get better than that. Mackerel features heavily on our menu. And when I’m not cooking it for customers I’m cooking it for family on the beach. Perfect.

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