Behind every great pub is a great Head Chef, managing the kitchen team, creating fabulous seasonal menus and ensuring the satisfaction of customers.
We’re delighted to introduce you to our fantastic award-winning Head Chef, Jay Williams, who has been a valued member of the Red Mist Leisure team for the past 7 years.
Anyone who has frequented our sister pubs is likely to be familiar with Jay. Having started his career at the age of 17 as a commis chef, Jay has become a consistent and familiar face to our Red Mist customers, having been Head Chef at The Duke of Cambridge, Tilford and The Stag on the River, Godalming.
Passionate and driven to excel in his field, Jay has worked hard to work his way up through the business and has passed many of his skills on to our other chefs. We are very excited to have Jay head up our kitchen team and he’s been busy devising menus full of delicious, mouth-watering dishes ready for our grand opening.
We pulled him aside from his launch preparations, to get to know the man under the chef’s hat.
What was your dream job when you were growing up and why?
To be honest, I never knew what I wanted to do, so luckily I just fell into catering and loved the atmosphere and environment.
Was food always part of your life as a child or something you grew to love?
Yes, my mum used to make the most amazing roast dinners every Sunday and it was always a big family occasion. I always wanted lamb with lashings of mint sauce… and my dad and sister would argue over who would finish the gravy jug with a spoon. They still do!
As a teenager, I worked in a few branded restaurants before finding an independent, where you have so much more input and involvement in the ingredients and dishes to feature on the menu. It was here that my career and knowledge really started to be carved and where I discovered a passion for utilising the best of local and seasonal ingredients and developing dishes with my own special touch.
Who is your biggest influence and why?
Tom Kerridge has been a big influence on me. He managed to take classic pub food to a whole new level, which is a real inspiration. I was lucky enough to go to The Hand & Flowers, his pub in Marlow, with my wife for lunch recently and was blown away by the whole experience – his food is truly amazing.
Closer to home, since a young age I have been inspired by my mum’s home cooking… she tells everyone that she taught me everything I know!
What is your favourite ingredient to work with, and why?
Anything that’s fresh and seasonal.
I love autumn vegetables when they start to come through but equally, love the green vegetables that appear in spring. You also can’t beat a delicious, perfectly cooked piece of spring English lamb. Essentially, a general rule of thumb for me, is the more I enjoy eating it, the more I enjoy cooking it.
Can you offer any advice to upcoming training chefs and apprentices?
Take every opportunity that comes your way. The more questions you ask, the more you will learn.
Cooking is basically a simple set of rules; the difficulty lies in knowing when to apply each rule. Put in the effort and you will eventually be rewarded. You will have to sacrifice a lot for the industry, so passion is absolutely essential.
Do you have a top tip that you share with people in the kitchen?
Whenever cooking meat, always allow it to rest for at least 20% of the cooking time. This allows the muscle to relax and the juices to distribute evenly, so the meat will be beautifully tender.
When you’re not working your magic in the kitchen, what is your favourite thing to do?
I love spending time with my wife and children and, when the weather permits, being out in the garden enjoying a really good quality IPA.
What are you most looking forward to about heading up the kitchen team at The Wellington Arms?
I’m looking forward to the challenge of running the events suite simultaneously with the restaurant and hotel rooms. I have done all three separately in the past but combining the three is going to be exciting and enable me to be creative in my cooking. We’ve recruited a great team and I’m looking forward to bringing the Red Mist values to another area of Hampshire.
Jay cannot wait for you to try the dishes on his menus and the specials he creates daily, using the best seasonal ingredients our local area offers. Book a table now so you can try Jay’s delightful dishes for yourself when we open or take a look at our menus online.