We catch up with Lee Gaskins, Head Chef at Highgate House in Northamptonshire.
Lee has been the Head Chef at Highgate House since 2007. Since then, he continues to wow our customers and win numerous awards for his dedication to cooking.
Who and what inspired you to become a chef?
I was always interested in food even as a child. You’d find me in my gran’s allotment peeling shallots and shelling broad beans. It wasn’t until I was much older that I began making the connection between nurturing and growing produce and turning it into something special.
There have been so many influences but, if I had to put it down to one person, then I guess it would be Mr Deegan, my third year lecturer at Stratford-on-Avon college. He taught me how to really cook in a kitchen.
What job would you have done if you hadn’t been a chef?
If I hadn’t been a chef I probably would have been a postman!
What chef would you most like to work for?
It would have to be one of the top line Michelin chefs - particularly Marco Pierre White or Marcus Wareing. I’d love to learn more from them.
What inspires your cooking and creativity?
There are a number of things that inspire me, mainly being current trends, old favourites and customer demands. National competitions are also great for throwing up a few challenges.
What is your signature dish?
I don’t really have one signature dish but I like to cook a variety of dishes. I love doing Kleftiko braised lamb shank - me and lamb shanks go back a long way. I won my first-ever cooking competition with a lamb shank! I also love to do the traditional British Roast, we do a great one at Highgate House!
What are your favourite ingredients?
I love to work with potatoes, asparagus, spinach, garlic, onions, beef, lamb – the list is endless!
What has been your biggest professional achievement to date?
I’ve been at Highgate House for 8 years now and my biggest achievement has to be managing the kitchen and building our great team. I’m also extremely proud of all the awards I’ve been lucky enough to win including the IACC Copper Skillet award, CCE Chef of the Year and Northamptonshire Chef of the Year which I’ve won twice.
What is your idea of the perfect last meal? Where would you go to get it?
My perfect last meal would have to be fish and chips at the seaside. You can’t beat that!
What three kitchen tools could you not live without?
Paring knife, sauté pan and tasting spoon!
What is the best thing about your job?
Aside from loving to cook, it has to be the people. Not only the team that I work with but the customers too. I always take the time to engage with our customers at Highgate and it’s very rewarding to hear they’ve enjoyed my food.
What are your words of wisdom for an aspiring chef?
Make sure you stick at it and never give up. Enjoy every moment, nothing is as bad as it appears!