Nick Deverell-Smith, The Churchill Arms

The Staff Canteen
Nick Deverell-Smith

Nick Deverell-Smith discusses his role as Head Chef/Proprietor at The Churchill Arms at Paxford and his own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Nick Deverell-Smith

Role: Head Chef/Proprietor

Place of work: The Churchill Arms at Paxford

Bio: Nick Deverell-Smith is a head Chef and proprietor at The Churchill Arms at Paxford. Nick left school when he was 15 and enrolled at Birmingham College of food, where he did really well and won the Junior Chef of the Year. Afterwards he went on to work for Andreas Antona at Simpsons in Kenliworth, Warwickshire, which is by Nick's words the best restaurant locally. A year later Nick went to Mallory Court - a Michelin star hotel - where he stayed for two and a half years. He entered the Gordon Ramsay Scholarship in 2006 and has worked in all of Ramsay's kichens in London. What followed was a permanent position with Marco Pierre-White, and a year later went to work under Eric Chavot at the Capital Hotel in London and as Chavot's sous Chef at the boutique hotel Le Chalet Blanc in France. Nick said his time with Chavot had the biggest impact on his career, making him realise his love and passion for flavour. After three years with him, Nick moved on to become a head Chef of The Restaurant at Soho House. He opened The Churchill Arms in February 2015. 

Follow Nick on Twitter: @Chefnickdev 

Chef Skills

Nick Deverell-Smith takes us through his personal experiences whilst being in the Culinary Industry. These key skills that young Chefs and industry professionals learn as part of their basic training.

How long have you been in this role? 

Eight months.

How did you get into cooking?

I wasn’t very big into school. But when I get home I used to cook with my mum and my gran and I loved it. By the time I was 11 I was cooking evening meals, so from a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a Chef. 

What made you want to own a pub in the first place?

My love of food is very simple and I’ve worked in places with Michelin stars for 12 years in my career. I love the relaxed atmosphere at a pub with really good food. I think I prefer the service to be friendly but less over-served. In high end restaurants sometimes it gets too stuffy and uncomfortable and you always feel a little bit over-watched. Relaxed dining with top quality food was something that I really wanted to master. 

Why did you choose the Churchill Arms?

It was a story of coming home – I’m a local lad but I’ve trained in London for 11 years. I’m from a village in Warwickshire which is not far from the pub, and I used to come here as a teenager with my family on Sunday lunches and beautiful walks. I get my meat from locals and for me, it’s just beautiful it comes from three miles away and I can visit the game and see it and just have that personal touch of how it gets from there to on the plate

What are your top tips for aspiring Chefs?

Start at the bottom, learn the basics, be a good commis Chef. It’s very important not to get ahead of yourself.

Listen. It might sound very basic, but if you listen in the kitchen it’s very a talk about passion for food and flavour and seasonality, so really listen to the older Chefs – I learned a lot from that.

Read a lot. Buy a lot of books, learn from the Internet. One of my favourite books is White Heat by Marco Pierre-White. He was my cooking hero - when I was a starting Chef I wanted to be like him. But obviously, at that age I wasn’t able to do the dishes he was doing but it made me want to push to do that. I think at the beginning read the practical cookery – Gary Rhodes has a pastry book out – it’s brilliant, all the recipes work.

It’s a very hard industry. If you want to get to the top, it’s really really tough, so make sure you really want it. It’s long and unsociable hours, it’s hard work, there’s a lot to learn and you’ve got to really really want it to get to the top. Make sure this is what you want because this is a lot of sacrificeIt’s in a Chef’s blood to be a Chef. Once you’re in it, it’s hard work, but I think there are some real benefits and some real highs. It’s hard work but I love it. 

What do you look for in a CV or during a job interview?

Very simple really. I like to sit down with the young Chef and look in his eyes, and if he’s got passion you can work with that. If they get excited when they talk to you about food, that’s massively important for me. It’s very important for me that a Chef has done his time. They may have gone to work for somebody for one or two or three months, but realistically, you don’t learn much in the first couple of months. I like to see a couple of years in two or three really good places. A lot of top Chefs look for that. My advice is, you should work at a top place for two years – you learn for a year and then you give it back. 

If you could go back and change any of the choices you made in your career, what would that be?          

I think I learned so much from going to London, and not being from London, I spent five years of my career outside of it, so I’m thinking I might have gone slightly earlier to work for what I call the big boys.

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Editor 23rd March 2017

Nick Deverell-Smith, The Churchill Arms