Interview with Colin McGurran
Owner of Winteringham Fields in Lincolnshire, Colin McGurran has travelled the world learning about food from different countries to create his own unique style. CrispWhiteSheets delves deeper to find out more about the talented chef.
CWS: At what age did you start taking cooking seriously, knowing you wanted to continue it as a career?
Colin: When I was 17 at catering college in Bournemouth. I realised that this was something I had passion for and wanted to push it further.
CWS: Do you have a favourite dish that you can’t live without?
Colin: My favourite comfort food is cheese on toast with Henderson’s Relish. I’d be devastated to learn that I could never have it again!
CWS: Colin: What’s your favourite childhood dish?
Colin: My mum is Canadian and she used to make what she called “Mom’s Bean Feast”. It had chipolata sausages in and would taste great after a few days in the fridge. It was a really good comfort food and still makes me smile to think about it.
CWS: Can you remember the best tip you were given as a child?
Colin: My granny used to always say “Charity begins at home” which is one that sticks out. Otherwise tucking your trouser leg in your sock before riding your bike was pretty useful!
CWS: How do you keep your menus exciting and new? Where do you get inspiration from?
Colin: Growing and rearing our own produce forces our menu and so I try to make sure we have a diverse range of ingredients to utilise. I challenge myself not to overcomplicate the menu and aim to just have 4-5 main ingredients on the plate for any one dish. I also look at the menu from a customer’s point of view, rather than looking at a standalone dish, I take it in the context of the entire menu to ensure that it works.
CWS: What’s the secret to seasoning and how do you please everyone?
Colin: I think that the secret is properly utilising the four main taste sensations – salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Rather than using just salt for example, I try to use a salty ingredient such as anchovies. It is often a case of trial and error but I think often makes for a better dish than simply adding basic seasoning.
CWS: What’s the first thing you would teach a budding chef?
Colin: Usually the first thing they learn is how I like my tea! But beyond that chopping chives, it may sound so simple but to me the basics are the key.
CWS: What’s the one thing that every successful chef should know?
Colin: Phil Howard said it best – cook from the stomach, not the brain. Also I think it is extremely important to remember that we are in the hospitality trade and the basis of our job is to give people a good meal.
CWS: What sacrifices have you had to make in your life to become a great chef?
Colin: Like any chef I cannot commit to family events and often have to let friends down. Our hours are unsociable and there is no getting around that.
CWS: Have you ever disagreed with a customer when they have returned a meal?
Colin: I treat any criticism or complaint as constructive and will always endeavour to make the customer happy, I have a reputation to uphold and I think disagreeing with the customer is not often necessary.
CWS: Can you remember a dish that you cooked better than anything else?
Colin: Whilst preparing dishes for the pub I recently made a very simple treacle tart with vanilla ice cream and I was so proud of it. I think it is important to still have passion for the simple dishes.
CWS: What’s the first dish you would teach a novice to make and why?
Colin: A lemon tart. That is a dish that requires technique, finesse, skill, time and patience and the simple beauty of a good lemon tart is difficult to top.
CWS: What’s the hardest part of creating a recipe from scratch?
Colin: The hardest part apart from the constant trial and error is the insecurities about the reaction it will receive. Sometimes we spend months on a dish and we have criticised it internally in the kitchen and perfected it but if that does not translate for the customer then it is back to the drawing board.
CWS: What’s your ‘can’t live without’ cooking gadget?
Colin:At home it’s a simple pestle and mortar. In the kitchen it’s probably the Thermomix.
CWS: Would you ever consider having your own TV show?
Colin: I would but it would need to be suited to my philosophy of cooking and to my personality.
CWS: What’s your best and worst experience on TV?
Colin: Best has to be cooking for the D-Day banquet at St Paul’s Cathedral for Great British Menu. That was the most incredible and humbling experience and I enjoyed every minute.
Worst was probably my involvement with Ramsay’s Best Restaurants, that was an eye opener to the editing process of television.
CWS: What’s that magic line you have to cross to become a Michelin star chef?
Colin: I’ll be interested to read the other responses to this so that I can finally cross it!
CWS: If you were to begin your career again would you do anything differently?
Colin: I would have done more stages in different restaurants, I bought a business at 21 so didn’t get the chance to do that. I would also ask all the stupid questions that I was afraid to ask.
CWS: What are your ambitions for the future?
Colin: I want to be in a position to have the freedom to be as creative as I want with opportunities that come my way.
CWS: What do you love most about being a chef?
Colin: I love that there are no real boundaries to how far you can take it, food is a constant evolution. It is creative and rewarding and the camaraderie of a kitchen team is quite unique. I also think that there are few things in life more pleasurable than eating great food and being able to create that for people is a great feeling.
CWS: Is there one funny occasion in your career that sticks out most above anything else?
Colin: Certainly wasn’t that funny at the time but at a previous hotel I owned we had the bathroom from one room fall into the room below. It really was a Fawlty Towers moment.
CWS: Do you have any funny memories of another chef that you can disclose?
Colin: A kitchen team double up as a group of comedians but what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen I’m afraid so I can’t divulge! This section would probably need heavily censoring as well.
CWS: Have you made any seriously bad mistakes with a recipe? Did you serve it without realising?
Colin: Of course there have been a few. There is nothing more annoying than realising a vital ingredient is missing at a point that it can’t be added. I’ve missed the sugar out of a soufflé before which was slightly irritating to say the least!
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