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Kevin Carroll, head chef at 4 Nations restaurant

PUBLISHED: 11:58 27 January 2015 | UPDATED: 11:58 27 January 2015

Kevin Carroll

Kevin Carroll

Archant

The head chef of the innovative St Albans restaurant gives an insight into his kitchen

Halibut at the 4 NationsHalibut at the 4 Nations

Describe your style It’s based on traditional dishes from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Wholesome, hearty food, using high quality ingredients and a back-to-basics style. Our focus is on flavours with a modern twist on presentation.

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How do you decide your menu? Seasonality, our customers, and a sense of national pride. We listen to our customers via social media, feedback and reviews to seek out family dishes to recreate. Our aim is to bring back favourites ‘your grandmother made for you’.

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Do you use Herts producers? All our suppliers are as local as possible. Part of our ethos is to keep money local and use independents. We collect daily from traditional butchers A&C Meats in St Albans; use Stickleback Fish - an ethical fish supplier which provides quality and great service; Sparshotts - a local veg supplier which understands our need for quality fresh produce and Flagship Wines on Hatfield Road where Julia is knowledgeable and passionate.

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Which menu dish do you most enjoy preparing? Slow cooked and long prep items, like the six hour slow roasted lamb shank or traditional stews and hot pots because you start with a bundle of fresh ingredients and the cooking process dramatically intensifies flavours and quality. As the saying goes: ‘Good things come to those who wait’.

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What ingredient is most important to your cooking? It would have to be the humble potato; not the fanciest ingredient but a traditional staple of our national diet. It’s very versatile - used as a thickening agent or a base for sauces and of course the 101 ways you can serve it: mashed, scalloped, pancakes, boxty, duchess…

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Your best culinary idea? Chicken breast in bacon, stuffed with black pudding, in a smoked cheese sauce. It’s a customer favourite. Our restaurant concept is contrary to the ever-expanding high street chains which focus on pre-cooked fast food. We believe we are helping to keep traditional dishes alive. It’s great to cook tasty dishes using wholesome ingredients produced on our own shores.

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Who did you train under? My brother and co-owner of 4 Nations, Vincent. He trained in Ireland under executive chef Pat Conway, spending time in The Castle, Dublin then moving to France to train in a hotel under a Michelin stared chef. The best thing my brother says to me daily is, ‘there’s no such thing as the perfect dish – they need to be improved and modified constantly’.

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What’s in your fridge at home? Being a chef means I’m at work more than home, so it has to be quick and easy: black pudding, bacon, sausage, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and milk which I can make about 20 different dishes from.

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Favourite quick meal? Welsh rarebit: good real ale, cheese, mustard and a dash of Worcester sauce spread on a thick slice of bread with a poached egg on top – a treat for the taste buds.

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Top three tips for amateur chefs? Take advice; have passion and pride in everything you create; and don’t be afraid to try new flavours and recipes – experimentation is what makes cooking fun.

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Best ever cookbook? Larousse Gastronomique – the world’s greatest cookery encyclopedia.

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