10 minutes with James Peck, Sous Chef, Lake Restaurant at Stoke by Nayland Hotel

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th September 2017

Sous chef at the Lake Restaurant at Stoke by Nayland Hotel, James Peck is well known for his ‘unique’ style of cooking.

The ex-military chef speaks to The Staff Canteen about his chef experiences, steady advice he was given when he started, as well as his future plans for creating something special for his daughter.

James Peck
James Peck

Born and bred in Northampton, James enlisted in the army as a chef at the young age of 17. Following in his father’s footsteps, he said: “I loved cooking from a young age and effectively was killing two birds with one stone”.

He always saw himself destined to go around the world as he explained that the army gave him that chance. Whilst in the forces he gained strength in organisation and discipline, which helped him in his first restaurant job.

His first experience in fine dining led him to work for Rhoda chef owner, Nate Green, who he described as “an absolutely phenomenal and technical chef, he taught me respect for produce and the art of mise en place - saving your bum.”

Chefs usually tend to pick up certain techniques or are influenced by others, James explained that he has learned to perfect attention to detail from preparation to serving, looking at the finer things and not overlooking anything, from previous chefs he has worked with. Speaking on his unique style of cooking, he clarifies that the technique that works best for him is adding ingredients in meals in ways that customers wouldn’t expect, making them taste classic ingredients but with different flavour combinations, adding that your own twist keeps your customers intrigued. When asked what word he would use to describe his food style, he said: “I would use grounded, not getting carried away or over complicating.”

His previous position was head chef at The Carriage House in Higham Ferrers. Recently he has moved over to the Lake Restaurant in Colchester to be closer to his daughter who lives in Suffolk as well as having the opportunity to cook for an audience that loved refined modern plates of food.

“My heart will always be split between Suffolk and Northampton and I wish to return in the near future, with plans to have a place of my own”, he says.

Lake Restaurant at Stoke by Nayland Hotel
Lake Restaurant at Stoke by Nayland Hotel

When asked where in the world he would open a restaurant if the opportunity came up, James said: “I could see myself on a coastline in Spain for sure, day boat style way of living, menus written daily reflecting local produce and seasonality.”

In contemporary society, social media plays a huge role, especially within the catering field. Being a frequent twitter user, James stated: “Social media inspires me daily and also gives me an amazing platform to connect with people, share dishes and recipes. It gives myself and the younger chefs the chance to see what the big guys are doing, it also gives you a real connection with more honest day to day kitchen life.”

When he first started in the hospitality field he mentioned he thought chefs were a bit more “rock and roll” and it wasn’t until he himself experienced chef life he saw it was more than “tipping up, cooking a few steaks and going home.” Underestimating the paperwork side of the job and the cleaning, he revealed that the best advice he ever got that stuck with him was to have a pen and pad, to write down and absorb all the information given, saying: "having a paper trail something to look back on and reference.”

Speaking on young chefs in the UK, James claimed there are many young chefs making their mark in the industry, too many to name. However, he did mention when he was last home in Northampton, he visited a close friend’s restaurant Tap & Kitchen in Oundle, and stated there was a young chef named Ben Racey, who James referred to as: “fuelled with passion for grilling and modern barbeque, he is someone destined to smash it in this crazy trade of ours.” Well you heard it here first!

When asked what his plans for the future were and where he saw himself in five years, James said, “Within five years I would like to take my career to the next step, trading at a venue of my own. Putting into practice all the things I have learned from amazing chefs and business leaders. I see myself cooking simple modern plates, aiming to achieve bums on seats, and pushing myself to create something special for my daughter’s future.”

By Marigona Bucinca

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th September 2017

10 minutes with James Peck, Sous Chef, Lake Restaurant at Stoke by Nayland Hotel