Ben Wilkinson, head chef at The Rampsbeck, at Watermillock, Ullswater

Essential ingredients: I'm a big fan of root vegetables. They have great versatility and I love the different results you can achieve with careful preparation; from salt baked and pickled beetroot for a starter, to smooth celeriac puree with a venison main dish. As well as essential ingredients, I also have essential equipment. Cooking has been transformed over recent years by the introduction of precision temperature control. We use water baths at The Rampsbeck to allow this control over long periods of time to cook food exactly as we want it. There are some good home versions of these now becoming available and I think it won't be long before most people have one.

First kitchen: After working in a couple of local restaurants in Derby, I went to the Hilton Park Lane, in London, which was my first experience of a real professional kitchen. The absolute respect for the food and cooking opened my eyes to how a chef should work.

Signature dish: At The Rampsbeck we change the dishes often and with the seasons so it is difficult to choose just one dish. However, I would say our Yew Tree Farm Herdwick hogget with turnips, peas, and braised hogget shoulder is definitely one of my favourites. It ticks all the boxes - it is a world-class meat and you can't get more local.

Food philosophy: My food philosophy is to cook seasonal food, buy from local producers and buy the best you can afford.

Biggest disaster: When I was pastry chef in the Netherlands I mistranslated a menu and made a frozen white chocolate parfait instead of a mousse, for 100 people! The chef was not impressed when I pulled them from the freezer a few minutes before serving.

Favourite chef: I would struggle to pick just one, but a few favourites are Michel Bras, Thomas Keller and Daniel Humm. These chefs show great respect for classic cuisine but have brought it up to date with modern techniques and by introducing new ingredients.

Biggest influence: I feel the influence of all the chefs I have worked for in different ways but I was particularly inspired by the way Daniel Clifford led the kitchen. He is the hardest working chef I have ever met and is now reaping the rewards for his efforts.

Favourite meal: If eating out, I have recently had amazing meals at L'Enclume, Cartmel, and The Old Stamp House, Ambleside, but ultimately my favourite meal would be some great cheese and homemade bread at home with my partner, Monika, after a good day at work.