Dean Westcar, head chef, Restaurant Hywel Jones by Lucknam Park

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st February 2018

Dean Westcar is head chef at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Hywel Jones by Lucknam Park in Wiltshire. 

Dean was a finalist in the National Chef of the Year 2018 competition and a contestant on MasterChef: The Professionals 2015

The Staff Canteen spoke to Dean about finding his food style, working at luxury hotels with Richard Davies and Hywel Jones, and why chefs should enter competitions to keep them motivated.

Grilled red mullet, sea vegetable, shellfish, verjus butter by chef Dean Westcar, Restaurant Hywel Jones by Lucknam Park

Grilled red mullet, sea vegetable,

shellfish, verjus butter

When did your interest in food start?

When I was about 10! I can still remember asking my dad for some sort of cookbook so I could make something. He got me a book called Basic Biscuit - there I found my love for food.

Where was your first kitchen job and where have you worked to date?

I first started off helping my parents in a little pub, but I would say my first 'proper' job was in a local hotel called the Royal Chase in Shaftesbury, Dorset, under a chef called Stuart Robbins. He helped me develop my basic skills and laid the foundation of who I am today!

I also worked at The Manor House Hotel in Castle Combe - this was the biggest step in my career. Executive chef Richard Davies gave me a chance to work in an Michelin-starred establishment, which I had always dreamed of.

I grabbed it with both hands! He became one of my biggest mentors and taught me so much - not only how to prep and cook, but the management and daily running of the kitchen.

Now I am at Lucknam Park under Hywel Jones. I have been here two and a half years and I'm still going strong.

How did you get the job at Lucknam Park?

The pastry chef at Lucknam (who is a good friend of mine) told me there might be a position opening up, so I sent Hywel a message to find out if it was possible to come and speak to him. I had always liked his food and wanted to learn from him!

Hywel Jones and Dean Westcar, chefs at the rugby
Hywel and Dean

What is Hywel Jones like to work for?

He is truly incredible - he knows how to fine tune flavour and get the best out of any ingredient. Hywel will always listen to the team, and is open to any ideas you might have. He has not only improved my day-to-day skills as a chef but he's also taught me about management and how to get the best out of people! Hywel is a true role model.

What are your daily responsibilities in your role?

I run the kitchen on daily basis, alongside Hywel or in his absence. I also train all the junior chefs in the ordering.

How much input do you have in the menu?

The whole team has input in the menu, but I am always thinking about developing my next dish, and Hywel will always help with any tweaks it might need. With the seasons and certain ingredients only lasting a short period, we need to bounce ideas off each other all the time.

You won South West Chef of the Year in 2014, what was that like?

I was speechless when it happened, didn’t expect it at all, but it was an incredible experience and I would encourage anyone in the South West to take part! The competition is getting bigger and better every year, with more and more talented chefs coming to the surface.

Info bar

Dream restaurant  –

Somewhere in the south west - the produce here keeps getting better and better! I would love a little restaurant that had about 40 covers, with a relaxed atmosphere. The food would be simple with little elements of quirkiness.

Dream brigade -

Bread and Canapés - Adam Handling - his chicken butter is out of this world and I love his style of food. His canapés would set the bar high for the rest of the meal.

Larder - David Brown and myself. David is great friend and chef. He always bailed me out when I first started in the kitchen and he always had my back!

Fish - Richard Davies, my old executive chef (and a beast on fish!). I don’t know anyone who can prep fish as fast and as well as him.

Garnish - Tom Kerridge - The Coach is one of my favourite places to eat! I've got to have him in my team.

Sauce - Hywel Jones - my boss! He can get the most flavour into any sauce and when it comes to meat prep, he 'smashes' through it. He's definitely the man for the job!

Pastry- Scott Barnard - absolute gezza, and his desserts always pack a punch.

Pass- Peter Sanchez-Iglesias and Jim Day - they have too much precision when it comes to plating!

Float - Andi Walker - the most positive and motivated person I know.

KP- Francois Pienaar, the man and legend himself. Being South African, this bloke is a hero to me!

What made you want to go on MasterChef: The Professionals and would you do it again?

I have always watched the show and thought 'why not, it could be fun?', and it was! (well, certain parts anyway). It definitely pushed me and I loved the people I met and moments I experienced. I wouldn’t have changed a thing! I definitely would do it again and I would also love to have a crack at Great British Menu.

You were a finalist in this years National Chef of the Year – what was the competition like?

This was by far the hardest competition I have done so far - not only cooking next to great chefs, but also cooking for chefs that have inspired me, who I see as role models. It was incredible, I will be entering it again in a heartbeat. 

Asparagus, potato mousse, truffle, potato vinaigrette by chef Dean Westcar, Restaurant Hywel Jones at Lucknam Park

Asparagus, potato mousse,

truffle, potato vinaigrette

Do you think it’s important for chefs to enter competitions?

It's completely up to the chef. I wouldn’t pressure anyone into doing one, but I think it helps you to develop and to improve your confidence. There are so many competitions out there which can help you grow.

Tell us about your food style?

I would say a modern British style, but I don’t really have one. I am still finding my own style - I just love cooking great, flavourful food with great ingredients.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to be an executive chef at a luxury hotel or something along those lines... or at a place like The Pass at South Lodge Hotel - I always loved that restaurant and concept and the hotel is also stunning! But I would be happy anywhere, as long as I am expressing myself in my cooking and people are enjoying it.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st February 2018

Dean Westcar, head chef, Restaurant Hywel Jones by Lucknam Park