Chef Q&A: Matt Hill, Down Hall Country House
09:20 15 November 2016
We caught up with Matt Hill, Executive Head Chef, The Grill Room, Downhall Country House Hotel, Hatfield Heath for a Q&A session
Describe your style.
I like to think my cooking style is both technical and playful. I cook Anglo-French style dishes taking influences from my training over the years and mixing that with interesting flavour combinations & textures.
How do you decide your menu?
I let the seasons dictate a lot of my menu ideas and dishes. We have a vegetable garden at the hotel which I use as much as possible so dishes can change quite rapidly.
Do you use local producers?
I use local suppliers for my veg, fish, meat and dry stores. They are Burtons, Marrfish, Fisher and Woods, and Cuisine Royale. I like to use local suppliers as you can build up a good working relationships with them. Having them is a big advantage as they can help you out if you get stuck.
Which menu dish do you most enjoy preparing?
My favourite dish at the moment is rabbit. It arrives as this whole animal and by the time I’ve finished I’ve broken the animal down into separate parts depending on the dish. I find rabbit so versatile, it has so much flavour and you can use everything including the offal.
What ingredient is most important to your cooking?
I would have to say butter. I use a lot of butter in all my cooking. It’s sometimes essential to the dishes I create. We poach in butter, finish meats and fish in butter & make butter sauces to accompany food.
Your best culinary idea?
This is a hard question. I don’t think I have a best culinary idea but I try to make my flavour combinations interesting and leave a lasting impression with dishes such as pea and chocolate, foie gras and passionfruit, and green olive gnocchi with cauliflower amd marmite.
Who did you train under and what did they teach you?
I’ve trained under some great chefs Peter Raffell, Tom Aikens, Mark Jordan and Mark Jones to name a few. Most recently I worked under Arnaud Stevens and Killian Lynch who helped mold me into the finished product. I paid special attention to balance of flavours, textures and flavour combinations.
Prediction for the next food trend?
This might sound like a cliché but I see fine dining becoming less formal and breaking the mould to be more inviting to all customers. All fine dining should be is a celebration of food in season for everyone to enjoy and nothing more.
What’s in your fridge at home? I always have milk, cheese, chocolate, coke, bread and marmalade and a good variety of vegetables.
Favourite quick meal? I love a stir fry but I am a cereal addict, I can eat it at any time of day!
Top three tips for amateur cooks? Listen, learn and write it down.
Best cookbook? White Heat by Marco Pierre White, it taught a generation. Rene Redzepi’s A Work in Progress is a close second.