Daniel ‘Iggy’ Higham, sous chef at The Beer Hall, Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley

Essential ingredients: Herbs and spices. Whatever you are cooking, they can elevate it to another level. That and good stock. Working in a brewery, I cannot fail to mention the beer. The brewers here really do know how to make a knockout beer and we use it as much as we can in our dishes in everything from beer and onion soup to beer trifle.

First job: Sawadee Thai Restaurant, Kendal. I had just taken the leap into catering and it was a dream come true for me, being a lover of Thai cuisine. At the time I was working two jobs as well as going to college so it was hard going - working from 6am until midnight most days. The kitchen was fast paced and although the head chef spoke little English, I learned a lot there about how a chef needs complete composure and work cleanly, no matter what gets thrown at him.

First dish: My mum's corned beef hash - a family favourite. I remember eating it once when I was a kid thinking ‘I could make this’, so I asked my mum to show me and I still cook it at home. Real rustic peasant food but I love it!

Signature dish: Food changes all the time - through the seasons, year on year and trends coming and going. It really is hard to nail your colours to the mast. Having said that, I love a retro classic and our version of a Baked Alaska, with chocolate and spiced damsons (steeped in Brodie’s Prime) is going down well at the moment.

Food philosophy : You have got to love what you do. I honestly believe that food is best cooked with a smile on your face.

Biggest kitchen disaster: I could name a number of kitchen related injuries I have had from cutting the tip of my thumb off, to pouring boiling soup over myself or literally setting my eyebrows on fire when a hob backfired. But for pure comedy, the biggest disaster I had was last Christmas when the beautiful 25lb crown turkey I bought didn’t fit in my oven.

Favourite chef: I'm a big fan of what Tom Kerridge is doing at the moment. He shows that you don’t have to bamboozle people to make food interesting. I also love, for different reasons, Daniel Clifford and David Thompson.

Biggest influence: I have been lucky enough to learn from some great chefs over the years, but I would have to say my wife, who persuaded me to become a chef in the first place. I still run most of my dishes past her.

Favourite meal: You can't beat a good hearty beef stew, with winter vegetables, herby dumplings and crusty bread. Perfect for those cold nights in! I also love a good barbecue and the social and sharing role food can play.