Michael Caines is the two-Michelin-starred head chef at Gidleigh Park and the Royal Clarence, a past contestant on Great British Menu, and is widely regarded as one of Britain’s best working chefs. It hasn’t been an easy path to fame, though. Early in his cooking career, he lost his right hand in a car accident. For many chefs, that would have been a career-ending event, but he persevered. Today, Michael Caines’ career looks ever starrier, with plans of expansion and plenty of earned critical plaudits.
We sat down with chef Michael Caines for the inside scoop on his favourite London restaurants, the future stars of British cooking, and his dogged pursuit of that third Michelin star. . .
Any chefs in the London dining scene currently impressing or inspiring you?
What’s your favourite ingredient to cook with?
At this time of year I love cooking fish and seafood – especially scallops!
Where do you think British cuisine is heading? Any predictions for where we’ll be in five years time?
We’ll continue to embrace seasonal and regional produce with an emphasis on quality and full traceability, whilst taking influences from all over the world. In five years, I think we may start to see the re-emergence of less formal fine dining. Not necessarily in a particular style or driven by the pursuit of molecular cookery, but there will be more choice and more interaction from a flavour and taste perspective.
You’ve faced an exceptional amount of hardship in the past. Do you think there’s something therapeutic in working in a kitchen, or is it as mad and intense as it sometimes looks on telly?
The TV doesn’t accurately show the true environment of the kitchen – it’s like anything else – you have good days and bad days.
It’s an amazing feat to be a Michelin starred chef. How much does that affect your daily activity in the kitchen? Do you find that you frequently worry about the restaurant’s rating, or is it something you try to push out of your mind?
It doesn’t really effect my daily activity, my mindset is, and always has been, to achieve high standards – I trained with the best so this is the norm for me. But the restaurant’s reputation is always at the forefront of my mind in all we do. I am always striving to achieve more, such as that elusive third star …
Having dabbled a little bit with TV, what’s your take on the celebrity chef phenomenon, and do you think you’ll be making any more television appearances in the near future?
I really enjoy doing television work and feel very comfortable in front of the camera. Other people tell me they enjoy watching my relaxed style on the telly and TV is definitely something I would love to pursue further.
You were famously mentored by Raymond Blanc. How are you now enjoying the position of mentoring the next generation of chefs? Any future stars to look out for?
I love it! For me it’s about giving something back. Raymond Blanc did a lot for me – he focused my direction – and I like to do the same with my Academy students as well as the chefs at Gidleigh Park and within the ABode hotels. Future stars: Ian Webber, Sam Moody, Robby Jenks, Tom Hine, Jamie Raftery Robert Cox, Jean-Marc Zanetti, Chris Fryer, Alistair Barsby, Will Gutherie. I am incredibly proud of what they have all achieved.
Having trained largely under French chefs, how do you incorporate those techniques with your own British approach?
Celebrating Britishness is more about embracing the amazing larder we have and less about reinventing. I bring in world influences whilst promoting regional identity through creativity and technical skills. Ingredients, culture and experience all play vital parts.
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