James Cross, owner and head chef at Lake Road Kitchen, Ambleside

Essential ingredients

We source produce from across Northern Europe, enhanced with ingredients we forage from the Cumbrian coasts, fields and forests. Some ‘essentials’ are available all year round such as aged Comte from France, beautiful dry-aged Belted Galloway beef or Herdwick. Many others are determined by the season. This means what is essential changes as much as the menu which is incredibly exciting for a chef. Towards the end of last year mushrooms were the star. Now we are moving through winter and into the spring months, we’ve got beautiful Skrei available - Norwegian cod only available from January to April - and stunning scallops from Orkney. We preserve lots of spring and summer produce so we hope there’s always something to surprise you.

First kitchen worked in

That was in Simpsons Restaurant in Birmingham.

First dish I prepared

Omelette. If you can make a decent omelette you’ll never go hungry. Eggs are a busy chef’s 'go to' meal.

Signature dish

One dish which guests keep returning for is our slow cooked, roasted octopus tentacle. We take the tentacles and cook them for 56 hours at 63 degrees and then finish them off in the pan before plating them with fermented wild garlic purée, hung yoghurt and seasonal wild herbs which might include nasturtium, sweet cicely, pickled pine or archangel nettle - depending on the time of year.

Food philosophy

To produce food from quality ingredients that is wholesome, delicious and reflects the locality.

Biggest kitchen disaster

Disasters? I don’t let those happen…

My favourite chef

Rene Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen. I spent two years at Noma as a chef de partie and although a very physically and mentally challenging kitchen, Rene’s drive and desire to explore and expound the idea of ‘Time and Place’ in his cookery, and his ethos of using local ingredients with freedom, creativity and innovation was incredibly inspiring. His philosophy is also born out in his other ventures such as Cook It Raw, which sees a small group of chefs from around the world brought together and asked to prepare one dish each using local ingredients but with as few appliances as possible. Another is MAD - meaning food in Danish - which is a community of cooks, purveyors, and thinkers with an appetite for knowledge and a desire to improve the restaurant trade.

My biggest influence

Although my time spent with Rene has certainly influenced by cooking and technique, my biggest influence has always been my mother. What you learn when you’re young stays with you throughout and I often return to her words of wisdom when I need inspiration.

My favourite meal

Cooking a relaxed dinner for friends and family is truly satisfying experience, and a meal like pulled BBQ pork with some decent bread, proper coleslaw and a few beers is pretty hard to beat.