What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
My mum was always cooking at home and we had a Rayburn which was used to heat the water as well as heat the house and cook the meals so there was always something on the go
What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
Probably my brigade of chefs here at Restaurant at Ockenden Manor – we are always talking, tasting and trying to evolve and refine our cooking.
Can you tell us which chefs you trained under and what you learnt?
My first head chef was called Willi Robuck and he detested waste – something that has stuck with me since I was 16.
What are your most indispensable ingredients?
Why is it important to you to champion British goods, including those that you forage?
For me its not just British, its Sussex foods. I come from the area and over many years at Ockenden manor I’ve come across some amazing suppliers. The majority of the ones I work with are in Sussex and now the relationships I have with them is trust.The bottom line is they tell me when I should be using their ingredients, due to season and supply.
What kind of experience do you aim to give guests at the restaurant?
It’s very important to cook to your surroundings so hopefully when they come to Ockenden Manor they have a great experience of country house cuisine.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
Gaining a Michelin Star.
The Michelin Guide UK & Ireland 2016 was recently released, revealing that Ockenden Manor had retained its star for the 13th year running. What do you think it is that makes it sosuccessful?
We never try to compromise our standards and look to have great consistency in our ingredients and cooking.
What’s next for you/What projects do you have lined up?
Nothing in the pipeline, just excited about how my current group of chefs will evolve.I’ve already had 2 chefs leave after 4 and 5 years respectively and go on and achieve their own Michelin Stars.I hope I have many more through my kitchen to achieve that level of success.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Fish and Chips, Kebabs, Burgers – I love a bit of junk food!
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
The Ledbury – if I can ever get a table!
Find out more about Stephen and Ockenden Manor here…