Ross Saunders, owner and chef at Ristorante Rossini, Ulverston, and soon-to-open Caffe Rossini, Dalton

Essential ingredients

Really good olive oil is essential in our cooking. Italian style food is simple and full of flavour so we always use fresh chillies and fresh garlic. I love eating out but hate when I taste the kind of chemical taste of preserved garlic, either in citrus or with additives. It's no substitute and often a lot more expensive. Here we only use Lakeland beef and lamb and my belief is that the rain makes the grass better, which make the animals better, which makes the steak better!

First kitchen worked in

The first kitchen I worked in was Jackson's Bistro in Bowness. The job was advertised as a pot wash and I was 16. I stayed there and began to learn about cooking and the industry. By the time I left I was cooking as the second chef and deputising for the head chef twice a week.

First dish I prepared

The first real dish I prepared was a chicken saltimbocca. This was a popular dish at Jackson’s and one which makes an appearance on the specials board at Rossini’s from time to time. It's a pan-fried chicken breast, topped with Parma ham and mozzarella with a sage and white wine reduction.

Signature dish

At Rossini’s we are known for our homemade pizza dough and fresh pasta sauces but we pride ourselves on our speciality dishes too. My signature dish is not particularly Italian but does make use of our local ingredients. It's Lakeland fillet steak, rolled in cracked black pepper and stuffed with cream cheese, fresh garlic and chives, then pan-fried and served with a reduction of red wine and cranberry sauce.

Food philosophy

Fresh is best and local is important, but flavour, taste and quality are essential!

Biggest kitchen disaster

This was when my two assistant chefs got confused about the rota and both failed to show up. I attempted service on my own but could barely keep up. We closed early and I was still washing pots at 2am.

Favourite chef

Antonio Carluccio. He must be in his late 70s and is still passionate about food. He has a rustic style which is typical of his era and reflected in the ingredients he uses. I think he is a little out of date now but I still admire his recipes.

Biggest influence

I harp on about my first job in at Jackson’s because it was where I learned so much about food. The kitchen team looked after me and got me involved with creating dishes that required a lot of technical skill. That experience and my interest in business formed a match that inevitably ended in opening Ristorante Rossini in 2006.

Favourite meal

I do love Italian and Mediterranean food but when surrounded by it every day it’s nice to have a change. I enjoy Indian food, particularly the sides and starters that are available in most Indian restaurants.