What made you decide to give up on your dream of becoming a professional BMX biker to start a career as a chef?
Honestly – my mum and dad told me that I couldn’t do BMX professionally and sent me off to catering college. Like a lot of chefs, I fell into it and realised I was actually quite good at it.
What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far?
I think it would have to be gaining my second star. It wasn’t something that I was actively pushing for. I am a great believer in keeping my own style and every so often have been criticised about the complexity of my dishes and the amount of ingredients used. I never wanted to change this and was really happy that I achieved my second star, whilst sticking to my guns. I am constantly evolving my food and like everything, with age, this has matured with me.
Who or what inspires you the most?
Everything around me inspires me. Architecture, art, the obvious…food, travel, reading and I think most importantly trying other people’s food. My team in the kitchen really inspire me. I like to get my whole team, from commis upwards, involved increating new dishes, experimenting, tasting etc. I love getting all of their feedback and ideas and running with those. We all feed off each other.
What kind of experience do you hope to give people dining at your restaurant, Michael Wignall at The Latymer?
I hope it is a different experience to anything else they have had before but I want them to feel relaxed and not intimidated. This is one of the main reasons why we changed our service style over 7 months ago, to a more relaxed and informal approach. We now have a much younger, more contemporary style of service, which I think really mirrors my style of cooking.
What was it like receiving your second Michelin star in 2012?
I really wasn’t expecting it. I would have been upset if I hadn’t got it but like I said, I wasn’t aiming for it and had never really put myself on that level. I was overwhelmed. But now I have retained it for the second year, I have set my sights higher.
What are three of your most indispensable ingredients?
Scottish langoustines – they are amazing on their own, as well as part of a dish. They put into context how a single item can be so versatile. Such a sweet, delicate flavour.
Morels – For me morels signify the start of the new season, when the change from winter to spring occurs, after a somewhat dull winter.
English asparagus – when in season, we pick ours locally on a daily basis and when it arrives at the restaurant it still has morning dew on the spears. It’s just amazing.
Describe your culinary style in a sentence…
Modern European, with Asian undertones.
What would you say is your defining culinary philosophy?
Never be afraid to experiment and believe in what you do. Respect the produce and the people around you, as you are nothing without them!
If you could take a plane ride to anywhere in the world, just for one meal, where would it be and why?
Japan. Since being a small child the Japanese culture has always fascinated me. I love their style of cooking. The respect they have for food and culture, is a lesson for all of us.
Read Michael’s full article in the latest.