From chef interviews to my top tips for where to eat out, I hope that you enjoy my bite-sized guide to the best chefs, restaurants, food and drink producers, retailers and events in the West Midlands.
Meet the chef – Liam Dillon, The Boat Inn, Lichfield
Liam Dillon’s culinary career has taken him from Marcus Wareing at The Berkley, to Noma in Copenhagen and La Bacasse in Ludlow. After a decade of building this impressive pedigree Liam came back to his home town Lichfield as Chef Patron of The Boat Inn.
And what a year it has been, with an entry in the Michelin Good Food Guide who say that his “eye-catching dishes are modern, refined and allow local ingredients to shine” and collaborations with the Sauce Supper Club which are putting this fine dining pub firmly on the map of destination restaurants in the West Midlands.
He kindly took time out from menu development to answer a few questions for Midlands Gourmet Girl readers:
Have you always wanted to be a chef?
From leaving school I actually wanted to join the Marines or the Royal Air Force. After visiting a couple of shows and demo etc I was really interested in taking it further. As you can imagine the family weren’t too keen on the idea, so I took a rain check and decided to look into other careers before getting stuck in.
I went to an open day at the University College of Food in Birmingham and was shown a peanut butter recipe, which is still a guilty pleasure of mine. After that I enrolled and haven’t looked back.
Who taught you to cook?
I can remember making cakes with my Nana and asking questions about stews and, as I like to call them, one pot wonders. I don’t feel this was the start of me becoming a cook but I think it aided my choice to start learning. From part time jobs in Birmingham I think I learnt a lot from David Colcombe (at the time of Opus). Even thought I was not there for very long and I was only there part time, it really opened my eye to what I was getting myself into and shaped me to take on London.
Which chef has been the biggest inspiration for you?
I have been lucky to have worked for amazing cooks and very talented individuals. A chef that I have worked for that have moulded me into the cook I am and take in the bigger picture would be Will Holland. From my time at La Becasse in Ludlow, Will made me aware of things that happen behind the scenes that when you have your own business it is not just cooking anymore.
A chef that has inspired me that I haven’t worked for is Heston, he took a small pub cooking for the people and built his empire from that. In many ways I have the same battle on my hands.
Where have you eaten your best ever meal?
I took holiday from a restaurant I was working in and went to New York for job trials at; Eleven Madison Park, Daniel & Gilt Restaurant. While I was there I ate at Momofuku Ko. 14 covers, all seated at a bar style counter and served directly by the chefs. Whether it was because I was traveling and working alone I don’t know, but it was something special and I will never forget it.
Do you use any local suppliers at The Boat Inn?
Yes, I am working very hard to work with small independent suppliers to support local businesses in the area.
What can diners expect from you at The Boat Inn?
We want our guests to feel at home. The cooking of course I want to be a step above the rest, but also we want to create a great atmosphere and welcoming environment in the pub first of all. We cook with local ingredients, we change our menus seasonally to make the most of what the season has to offer but also and a little bit different with some serving styles. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t aiming to create a Michelin Starred pub.