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Churchill Arms Head Chef Nick Deverell-Smith on working with the greats and good pub grub

All Areas > Food & Drink > General

Author: Thomas Hadfield, Posted: Sunday, 3rd March 2019, 09:00

Nick Deverell-Smith Nick Deverell-Smith

Nick Deverell-Smith was named Junior Chef of the Year in 2000, and since then has worked with some of the biggest names in cooking, from Gordon Ramsay to Marco Pierre White.

He’s appeared on shows like ‘The Great British Menu’ and ‘Saturday Kitchen’ and now runs The Churchill Arms in Chipping Campden, where he prides himself on serving simple and honest pub classics.

When did you realise you had a talent for cooking?

“I wasn’t very academic and cooking became a kind of release for me. When I was 7/8 years old I used to come in from school and bake cookies and cakes, simple things to start off with.

“Then at 11/12 years old I’d do some evening meals – I’ve got two older brothers, one younger brother and my mum and dad, we’re quite a big family and dad worked away a lot so I’d help out. That was when I realised I had this skill and love for cooking.”

What was your first job in a kitchen?

“It was at this awful pub where basically everything was deep fried, with a not very nice head chef. I was there for about three weeks and it made me realise I didn’t want to go along those lines.

“Then I applied to do pot washing at Simpsons restaurant in Kenilworth, where I went on to be Saturday prep boy and then after catering college I got an apprenticeship there.”

What’s the best part of the job?

“I love using the best ingredients and keeping it simple with three or four things on a plate. I call it simple clever cooking, using all the things I’ve learnt over the years that have become second nature, and I get a kick out of seeing big smiles on customer’s faces.”

Do you have a favourite dish?

“I love venison, game, pigeon, those kind of things in season. I was runner up in the Gordon Ramsey scholarship in 2006 and cooked venison with a truffle macaroni which was unbelievable if I say so myself!”

Any guilty pleasures?

“I’m classically trained so I love classic food. My guilty pleasure is steak, chips and béarnaise done properly, classic pub dishes like that.”

Any culinary Pet Peeves?

“I’ve sort of come full circle with this, there was a time when I was really into foams and froths and all that, but now I couldn’t be any further away from that. I don’t mind them but it frustrates me when they’re used in the wrong way.”

Best meal you’ve ever had?

“For my 21st birthday my parents took me to Gordon Ramsey’s three Michelin star restaurant on Royal Hospital Road. We had the taster menu and it was amazing – it made me want to go on to work for him, which I did.”

Any tips for home cooks?

“Buy the best produce you can, you can’t start with something bad and make it good. Go to your local farm shop, build a relationship with a local butcher, and then keep things simple in the kitchen.”

Are there any chefs or recipe books you take inspiration from?

“Marco Pierre White was my hero and when I was 26 he told me to go and work for Éric Chavot. He is brilliantly mad and made my life difficult in the kitchen but he made me realise my love for the industry and is a really special guy.”

The Churchill Arms will be celebrating National Pie Week with a special Pie Menu from Monday 4th – Friday 8th March.

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