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What’s cooking? Nick Ash at The Merry Harriers

Our favourite chefs spill all about their work, lives and top tips. Dishing it this week? Nick Ash, the chef at The Merry Harriers in Hambledon.

Nick Ash, chef at The Merry Harriers in Hambledon, near Godalming, Surrey

Your first job (in a kitchen)?

I worked for the Chestfield barn in Chestfield, near Whitstable in Kent, run by the Kray family. Yes, the gangsters!

Career highlight?

Assisting in the opening and being the senior sous chef at a Marco Pierre White restaurant.

Sum up your cooking style / food philosophy?

When running my kitchen I like to be prepared and prepped at all times ready for service. I also enjoy mixing different flavours and recipes to create new dishes.

Most memorable moment at work?

Cooking for Brad Pritt whilst he was filming Snatch nearby.

Ever cooked for anyone famous?

Brad Pitt, Marco Pierre White and Karl Cox.

Your biggest mistake at work?

Burning the soup at a wedding for 50 people. I was a commie chef at the time, and my head chef was not happy at all, but we put a lot of lemon juice in the soup to take away the burnt flavour.

You’re tired, starving and impatient: what do you cook for dinner?

Egg fried rice with plenty of veg and chilli sauce.

What would you cook to impress a date?

You can’t go wrong with a steak.

Favourite chef?

Marco Pierre White is one of my true culinary idols whilst coming up in the trade.

Favourite cookbook?

White Heat by Marco Pierre White.

Favourite type of cuisine?

Chinese or Thai. I have been to Thailand twice and have always enjoyed the flavours and the atmosphere of the country.

Favourite kitchen gadget?

The big industrial oven.

Pennyhill Park at Bashot

Favourite local café? Restaurant? Hotel?

My favourite hotel and place to eat is Pennyhill Park Hotel at Bagshot – it’s where the England football team train, and the food is out of this world. They have a Michelin star.

Favourite things to eat when you’re on holiday?

Depends where I am on holiday but mainly Thai cuisine.

What mistake do inexperienced cooks tend to make?

Not listening to advice and direction from senior chefs – you are always learning in this industry.

Favourite ingredient and why?

Garlic or ginger added to any dish can change the flavour completely.

Most over-rated ingredient?

Oysters!

The dish you’re most proud of creating?

Fillet Rossini. It’s a true classic, but executed well it is sensational.

Three dishes every home cook should master?

1. Chicken and leek pie;

2. Spaghetti Bolognaise;

3. Coffee and walnut cake – I say the cake because my GM really can’t get it right to save his life especially if you forget to put the flour in! 

Loads of us are really bored of our own cooking right now – any advice?

Don’t be afraid to experiment and always keep looking for new dishes and ideas because you never know you may find your next favourite dish.

The Merry Harriers,  Hambledon Road, Godalming GU8 4DR. Tel: 01428 682883.

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