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Jack Woolner at the White Oak, Cookham

PUBLISHED: 11:46 06 January 2011 | UPDATED: 15:55 20 February 2013

Jack Woolner

Jack Woolner

Jack Woolner, executive head chef at the newly-opened White Oak, Cookham, as well as the Greene Oak, Oakley Green, shares some secrets

Which dish on your current menu do you most enjoy preparing and why?
Roasted poussin breasts served with braised poussin legs coq-au-vin style. I'm a big fan of coq-au-vin with its robust flavours, and the combination of breast and braised legs is perfect for this time of year and just a little different.

How do you decide your menu?
I introduce new dishes about four weeks before they go on the main menu by having them as specials. It's a team effort - everyone in the kitchen makes suggestions and everyone has an opinion on the finished dish. The waiters also give me feedback from clients so I usually know if a dish will be well received by the time it appears on the menu. I have a huge collection of recipes I have used before and will bring them back if they've been popular. One dish that is frequently requested is my twice-cooked scrag of lamb, slow cooked for 12 hours.

Who did you train under and what did they teach you that you'll never forget?
My career started out in Cambridgeshire under the guidance of Clive Dixon, currently head chef at the Hind's Head in Bray. Alongside the basic cooking skills, he taught me what goes with what. He taught me how to follow the rules of food combinations while still experimenting with flavours and thinking outside the box from time to time.

What is your prediction for the next food trend?
As well as many of the classics being re-worked, I think we will see a big move towards healthy food. I don't mean low-calorie or low-fat, but food you can trace to its origins - natural, good, wholesome ingredients. People are starting to care a lot more about the food they put into their bodies.

What has been your best culinary idea?
One of my dishes that I think is pretty original is saddle of lamb with lamb pasty and roasted parsnips. I've never come across this combination before - the pink lamb alongside the pasty made from minced lamb just works. It's the perfect marriage of wholesome flavours, different textures and is satisfying to look at and to eat!

What is your favourite ingredient?
Garlic. No doubt. It is so incredibly versatile. One of my absolute favourite dishes with it is sticky garlic risotto.

What do you think of the cult of celebrity chefs?
I'm in favour of chefs being celebrities as long as it is because they are chefs. What I don't agree with is when they sell out and do other stuff just to make money. I mean, chefs on Strictly Come Dancing? It's just wrong.

The White Oak
The Pound
Cookham, Maidenhead SL6 9QE
01628 523043


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