Michelin-starred chefs and some of the county’s most famous rugby legends will gather in the South West in April to raise money for renowned industry charity Hospitality Action. Former England and Bath rugby player and renowned TV pundit David ‘Flats’ Flatman will entertain guests with his sporting tales and anecdotes alongside former England captain Phil Vickery MBE, former England player Jeremy Guscott, Welsh rugby union and Worcester Warriors scrum-half Matt Powell, ex-England rugby lock Nigel Redman and many more at Deer Park Country House Hotel in Devon. The evening will include a four-course dinner prepared by seven award-winning South West chefs including Paul Ainsworth of Paul Ainsworth at Number 6, Guy Owen of The Idle Rocks and Michael Wignall, formerly of Gidleigh Park. We caught up with the chefs to find out a bit more about the night and a couple of hot topics.
One of the UK’s most renowned chefs, Michael Wignall has held positions of executive head chef at the Michelin-starred Gidleigh Park Hotel and the two-Michelin-starred The Latymer at Surrey’s Pennyhill Park Hotel.
Why is it important for chefs to get behind Hospitality Action?
It’s a great cause that gives support to so many people within the industry that have fallen on hard times. It’s very reassuring to know that there is an organisation out there which offers such support.
Does the industry need to do more to support fellow hospitality workers who fall on hard times?
It goes without saying that more can always be done. I think a lot of people are guilty of turning a blind eye and the more it’s highlighted as a problem and not the ‘norm’, the better. The reason for our industry is to give care and attention to our guests. I think the same emphasis should be put on our employees.
Can you give us an idea of what you will be cooking on the night?
Especially for the evening, I have created a Yorkshire rhubarb dish. The vegetable will be in season in April and is one of my favourite ingredients to cook with.
Is it a difficult time in the industry at the moment with the skills shortage and Brexit worries?
Definitely – over the last couple of years we have felt the struggle. I am fortunate enough to have a very loyal team who have moved around with me. But the situation just highlights the need to look after and invest in the team we have around us.
What has been the most significant change in the restaurant industry during the past 10 years?
Probably dietary requirements. On so many occasions the team and I have spent hours creating a bespoke menu for someone with every weird and wonderful dietary requirement known to man…only for them to arrive and decide they’re ‘having a night off’.
Other than your own, where is your favourite restaurant? Or somewhere you have enjoyed eating recently?
My wife and I travelled around Japan for our honeymoon a couple of years ago. We dined in a restaurant in Osaka called Hajime and it was honestly the best meal I have ever had. The style of cooking was amazing; there were so many lovely flavour combinations and interesting ingredients. I was very glad to see that they had received three stars in this year’s Michelin Guide.