Chris Dallinson, head chef at The Cavendish Arms, Cartmel, since October 2014

Essential ingredients

Anything that is fresh and seasonal. I love to experiment with flavours so using seasonal products keeps me on my toes with what’s in vogue at any moment in time. If I had to pick one essential ingredient for my menu it would be any fresh fish in season. So much can be done with fish and with all the local produce available around us we can make really interesting and unusual combinations.

First kitchen worked in

The first kitchen I worked in was the Regal Hotel in Cleveleys, near Blackpool, when I was a mere 17 years old, very naive and very quiet. My role was shadowing the line chef for the day and helping him with daily prep. I quickly learnt to stand up for myself and work hard. The head chef ran the kitchen like a military exercise. His motto was 'fail to prepare young man, prepare to fail young man'!

First dish I prepared

The first dish I ever prepared was a recipe of my Nana's for Yorkshire Parkin. She was a fabulous cook and I think I got my passion for cooking from her. Is my Parkin as good as hers? Probably, but don’t say I said that!

Signature dish

My signature dish is stuffed squid, razor clam and crayfish with a delicate samphire dumpling. I am a huge fan of seafood and this dish not only challenges me technically with its many ingredients, but it looks great for the customer.

Food philosophy

I have a simple but effective philosophy for my food - if it looks good it will taste good. This was stolen from my Nana too!

Biggest kitchen disaster

My biggest kitchen disaster happened when I was just 17. I poured away the soup stock for a wedding party of 70 guests because I thought it was waste left over from the stock pan. I have never worked as hard to make some more in such a small space of time. We did it, but only just. Phew!

My favourite chef

It has to be Marco Pierre White. I admire the way he works so delicately with his ingredients, giving each one respect which is apparent in his food presentation. I'd love to work for him one day.

My biggest influence

My customers. I always try to get feedback and comments as I'm always developing dishes. If customers want something I listen and try to give them what they ask for. Empty plates and seeing how many order sweets tells me my main course dishes are not overbearing.

My favourite meal

The good old cheese butty! It doesn’t matter what cheese but it has to be fresh brown bread and maybe a touch of tomato sauce.