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Chef Q&A: Robert Haynes, head chef, Down Hall Country House

PUBLISHED: 10:49 10 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:49 10 March 2014

Colne Valley Salmon at Down Hall

Colne Valley Salmon at Down Hall

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Robert Haynes, head chef at The Grill Room, Down Hall Country House in Hatfield Heath gives an insight into his kitchen

Describe your style. Modern English. I love using seasonal English ingredients and cooking techniques and giving some of our classic dishes a modern twist. I believe modern English food can come across as deceptively simple but is lifted to the next level by exceptional sauces and combinations.

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How do you decide your menu? Always based on what is available that time of year. I enjoy using produce from the vegetable garden here at Down Hall and will base many of my dishes on what is in season.

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Which dish menu dish do you most enjoy preparing? My Coln Valley smoked salmon is certainly one of my favourites. I think people will be surprised to panfry smoked salmon as it is usually eaten cold. Cooking it brings out the flavours in a very special way. Bacon, smoked salmon and lentils are a match made in heaven.

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What ingredient is most important to your cooking? There are too many ingredients essential to cooking. But it’s hard to imagine life without garlic and chilli.

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What’s been your best culinary idea? I experiment a lot, some things work really well and sometimes something that sounded great on paper does not work in real life. But my best idea was to become a chef!

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Who did you train under and what did they teach you? Aiden Mc Cormack, Nico Ladenis, John Mc Manus. They taught me to respect the produce, always do the best you can and you never ever drop your standards.

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Prediction for next food trend? One of the most exciting new trends is to no longer use water in cooking. So, for every recipe that requires water to cook the ingredients, you look for an alternative – anything from stock and wine to beer or even tea. I have been having a lot of fun experimenting with this.

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Quick Grill.

What’s in your fridge at home? Lots of vegetables, green Thai curry paste, and as always, a bottle of champagne in case there is something to celebrate!

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Favourite quick meal? Green Thai curry.

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Top three tips for amateur chefs? Always have a notebook so you can write down ideas. Keep trying new things. Enjoy what you are doing.

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Best ever cookbook? Nico by Nico Ladenis – a daily inspiration.

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