Michael Vango, sous, pastry and dessert chef at the Cedar Manor Hotel and Restaurant, Windermere.

Essential ingredients: As a pastry chef I need good, fresh dairy products, butter, eggs and cream. It’s important to use good quality chocolate. We use chocolate here that’s at least 60 per cent cocoa content.

First kitchen worked in: When I was 12 I started work as a kitchen porter on a Saturday at the Carpenters’ Arms at Irchester, in Northamptonshire. My first full time job was at a hotel restaurant making bread and petit fours.

First dish I prepared : My first pudding was crème brulee. I used to watch how the others did it. It was very different from the way we were taught at college. You learn differently on the job.

Signature dish: I don’t really have one signature dish. I like to be different every time I do something. I have a knack of doing classic desserts with 'oddballs' thrown in, such as tarragon and olive oil ice cream with a dessert.

Food philosophy : Play around, enjoy what you do and go with your heart. I enjoy trying different things and playing with flavours. The dessert is the last dish on the menu so I want to make an impact. I love hearing the comments that people make.

Biggest kitchen disaster: It was in the first months after leaving college. I was piping hot caramel when the bag burst, and I got scalding sugar on my face. I had secondary burns and was rushed to hospital. It was just a little finger away from my eye. That taught me a lesson.

My favourite chef : I like watching people such as Keith Floyd. But sometimes I just want to see basic cooking like a paella in the south of Spain.

My biggest influence: My mum. She cooked massive roast dinners. I left home 15 years ago and she still worries I don’t eat well enough. I was always hanging around in the kitchen with her when I was young. My brother would be outside running around, though he always came in when it was time to lick the spoon when she was baking. I helped make bread and that’s why I like doing afternoon teas now. There’s always a huge table of food when I go home and it’s taken mum a long time to realise I won’t criticise her cooking just because I’m a professional chef.

My favourite meal: It has to be anything with lamb in it - maybe a lamb tagine or a lamb rump. We get all our meat locally to use at the hotel. I love the flavour of Herdwick. It’s a fantastic meat.