Andrew Beaton, head chef at The Lakes Distillery Bistro, Bassenthwaite

Essential ingredients

First of all my team, they’re the most important ingredient to me. I couldn’t survive without salt either. I work with seasonal produce so at the moment I’m using English asparagus and wild garlic picked from the river just ten yards from the kitchen! Our fixed price menu changes weekly.

First kitchen worked in

I started off as a kitchen porter in the Old Mill in Bardsea, then got my first chef job in Raymond Blanc’s Le Petit Blanc in Oxford - which is where I learnt everything. I worked there for three years. We did up to 200 checks per evening which is a similar number to what I whip-up here.

First dish I prepared

We were challenged to create our own dishes at Le Petit Blanc and I developed a hot smoked salmon dish with spiced couscous on my first attempt. It must have been good because it went on the fixed price menu!

Signature dish

I don’t have one because I have a wide repertoire. The menu at the Bistro changes weekly and my cooking is based on seasonal ingredients at their best so I have a few signature dishes for each season.

Food philosophy

I like simple food and concentrate on letting the ingredients do the talking. This means you need good quality ingredients so we choose our suppliers very carefully. We aim to use local suppliers but won’t compromise on quality.

Biggest kitchen disaster

Firstly, I wasn’t in charge in this kitchen but I felt for the chef who was. It was a wedding and 50 main courses went out. The bride then came into the kitchen howling and the chef soon realised why - it was supposed to be roast beef not chicken and the menus had been mixed up.

My favourite chef

Raymond Blanc, I love his food and his passion. He taught me that using the best ingredients and maximising their flavours is the best way to cook. I was like a sponge when I worked in his kitchen, absorbing as much as I could.

My biggest influence

My grandad as he got me into cooking. He was a chef in the army and when I wasn’t sure what to do with my life he enrolled me on a cookery course at college and I never looked back. He made the best roast chicken and potatoes.

My favourite meal

The best meal I ever had was a birthday gift from my fiancé. We had twelve courses at Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant in London. I remember the venison, rainbow chard, carbonara (slow cooked egg wrapped in dry ham) and lobster dish being outstanding. The whole thing was amazing. We got a tour of the kitchen too. Otherwise, I’d choose a roast dinner!