Deep in the bowels of the beautiful and sprawling Pennyhill Park hotel is Michael Wignall’s Latymer Restaurant. In its cocoon-like dining room you can expect delicious, finely crafted food: masterpieces of high-spec engineering with every detail precisely calibrated, refined and assembled in perfect symmetry. His position at number 25 on the Good Food Guide 2014 Top 50 list places him among the very best restaurants in the country, and we caught up with the culinary star to talk about all things food.
Name the three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
High-end olive oil, great staff and quality stocks.
Why do you think food and cooking has become so fashionable?
Because there is an increased amount of television programmes that are cheap to make, commercially successful and the filming can be done indoors. Also people travel more, expanding their knowledge and taste of different foods.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Late spring to early summer as produce is colourful, vibrant and full of flavour.
The most underrated ingredient is…
Salt – it is misused and underused. There are so many great salts out there for example, Maldon or Fleur de Sel, but yet people are still using table salt, which I personally do not find usable.
What’s a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Their egos, because learning, listening and sharing is a key element to being a successful chef. Seasoning too, as there is such a delicate balance between the correct amount, and under- and over-seasoning.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch in 2014?
Tim Allen (Launceston Place, London), Paul Foster (Tuddenham Mill, Suffolk) and Alyn Williams (The Westbury, London).
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Alyn Williams at the Westbury. I know it was open in late 2011 but I was unfortunate not to eat there until beginning of last year. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal there.
Which restaurant do you return to again and again?
Yo Sushi. I enjoy the concept and take pleasure in taking my son there.
Tell us three chefs you admire.
Marco Pierre White for his young mark on the industry, Heston Blumenthal for the development of food, and Alan Ducasse for his consistency.
Which restaurant best sums up British cooking today?
The Hand & Flowers, Marlow, as us British love great pub grub.
Which out-of-the-way restaurant is worth a trip?
El Celler de Can Roca in Spain. I remember my first visit there, a couple of years back, and saying to myself this will be the number one restaurant in the world soon.
At the end of a long day, what do you like to cook?
Burford brown eggs on sourdough toast and a shot of Nespresso coffee in a hot chocolate.
Do you remember your first professional dish?
It was an assiette of desserts at Heathcotes.
Who was your greatest influence?
Marco Pierre White on BBC's Take Six Cooks.
Which of your dishes are you most fond of?
My cassoulet of razor clams, because it consistently exceeds the expectations of diners with its balance of flavours, and it looks and tastes beautiful.
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