Lisa Goodwin Allen on taking over the kitchen at Michelin-starred Northcote

The Staff Canteen

It’s the dawn of a new era at Northcote as executive head chef Lisa Goodwin Allen looks to take the Michelin-starred restaurant onwards and upwards.

The Staff Canteen wanted to shine the spotlight on ‘Lisa at Northcote’ as the hotel heads into an exciting 2018. She’s been a part of the team for 14 years maintaining the Michelin standard and working side by side with renowned chef and her mentor Nigel Haworth.

Wild Seabass, Young Garden Leeks, Charred Lettuce, Iron Cross Oxalis

Wild Seabass, Young Garden

Leeks, Charred Lettuce, Iron Cross Oxalis

On stepping into Nigel’s shoes she said: “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous! He has such a legacy here. But I’m quite a hungry and ambitious character, I like to think I can run a good kitchen and I’m excited about it.”

Nigel is synonymous with the name Northcote but this year he announced he’s no longer involved in the running of the business or the kitchen. He is the ‘Chef Ambassador’ for Northcote and Obsession and he will also do cookery school classes and special evenings.

“I think it’s fair to say he’s been stepping back for a while now to let me breathe,” explained Lisa. “I think I can now call it my kitchen, which is quite a privilege.”

Lisa explained how exciting it is to work up the rankings and now be ‘given space to continue to grow’, adding: “It’s the end of an era, and it’s hard because he’s always been that mentor and he has always been there but he’ll still be there to talk to. When you’ve worked with someone so closely and then they are gone it’s quite surreal.”

She’ll happily admit it’s always been ‘Lisa and Nigel’ but said: “Now it can just be me!”

As well as being hands on in the kitchen, Lisa is looking forward to learning more about the business side too. She is also clear on her vision for the future of the food at Northcote, she said: “The biggest thing for me is to evolve, and evolve the people in the kitchen. I want to improve what we are doing on a day to day basis.

“Regarding style I’m still quite modern British, we use a lot of local suppliers and we use a lot of interesting techniques – all of which I want to keep pushing on.”

She explained that ‘it will be quite natural’ as the food at Northcote becomes hers, she said: “I have a style and all I can do is keep trying to improve on that. I think people will see that when they see the food.”

Lisa Goodwin Allen   Executive Head Chef(3) low res
Lisa Goodwin Allen

Lisa has a brigade of 28 to 30 chefs to manage, compared to when she started and there were six of them ‘running around like flies!’ She said: “I was young when I first took the head chef role here and I think I’m still learning now – I think that is the beauty about the business.

“It was tough running a team of six and it’s the same now, but I’m always trying to improve and improve the guys in the kitchen. We want evolve with the times and keep pushing forward and I want to keep my team energised. They were listening to two heads and now it’s one and I think that will be a good thing.”

Nigel will continue to be an ambassador for Obsession, his annual gastronomic event which sees some of the world’s best chefs descend on the Lancashire restaurant between January and February.

Lisa said: “You feel every sensation during Obsession – exhausted, excited, amazed and it’s an honour. I say to the guys here, you could pinch yourself when you think about some of the amazing chefs who have come through the kitchen at Northcote. You would pay thousands of pounds to go and stage in their kitchen or eat in their restaurant. So having them here and their culinary experience on hand is quite amazing.

“I deal with the logistics and the ordering which is a massive learning curve – I sit down and look at the ingredients and sometimes I’ve never heard of it so I have to start googling!”

As well as taking the reins in terms of food, Lisa is also keen to nurture her young chefs and promote within as she has experienced. She said: “We have some incredible people coming into the industry and it’s about evolving that next era. For me it’s an honour when a chef comes out of my kitchen and they say to people ‘go and work with Lisa, she runs a god kitchen’ – you want that and the ultimate thing is you want people walking out that door saying ‘I’ve learned a lot’.

“It’s so important and it’s a great experience being able to learn from other people. Retaining staff is also important, you need that stable team and you always need those chefs who are always there, who are trust worthy and who are as keen and driven as you are.”

Spiced Northcote Pumpkin Cappuccino%2C White Bean Chorizo%2C Puffed Seeds (V) (2) low res

Spiced Northcote Pumpkin

Cappuccino, White Bean Chorizo, Puffed Seeds

As important as it is for Lisa to keep staff she’s also equally keen for young chefs to move on and experience other kitchens when they are ready.

“It’s important they feel they can approach me and say ‘I’ve really enjoyed my time here but can you help me move on?’”

She added: “I’m a big believer of what you put in is what you get out. If you work hard and are learning all the time you will get to where you want to get to.”

She may have been at Northcote for over a decade but Lisa is by her own admission ambitious, like every chef she shares the dream of opening her own place one day and says ‘if there was ever opportunity, you never know’.

“Everyone always asks what is going to happen in five or ten years’ time but I don’t think you know that. If I could open my own place and be successful – to achieve that would be amazing but right now I’m focused on Northcote and as Nigel said to me ‘pushing it on to achieve even more'.”

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th December 2017

Lisa Goodwin Allen on taking over the kitchen at Michelin-starred Northcote