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Chef Speak: Simon Harrison

PUBLISHED: 16:14 16 August 2013 | UPDATED: 16:17 16 August 2013

Simon Harrison, head chef at The Charles Cotton Hotel in Hartington

Simon Harrison, head chef at The Charles Cotton Hotel in Hartington

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Derbyshire Life speaks to the head chef of the Charles Cotton Hotel in Hartington

What inspired you to become a chef?

Every day is different and I enjoy never knowing who is going to walk through the door. I also love the feeling you get when you spend a long time creating the perfect dish and getting praise from customers — nothing beats that feeling.

How did your career progress?

I started at the bottom and progressed through the ranks, working at every possible opportunity. In the catering industry you get out what you put in so I always take constructive criticism on board.

Did you have any outstanding successes or disasters in the early days?

Everybody in the hospitality industry has good and bad days and they’re the days that make you stronger as a person. Forgetting to put orders in when I first became a chef resulted in my first ‘talking to’; needless to say I didn’t do that again in a hurry! A personal highlight was being selected to represent Buxton College in a catering competition at 18. I didn’t win but it fuelled my passion and made me even more determined to succeed as a chef.

What was your first experience of cooking professionally?

My first position was as a commis chef in an 80-seater restaurant. The first busy Saturday night, with the pressure of having to make sure everything was perfect whilst working at such a fast pace, was exhilarating. I felt proud to get through it without any mistakes and craved the next busy shift. I’ve loved it ever since!

Who are your preferred suppliers?

Knowing where produce comes from is very important to me and using local suppliers wherever possible is a must. It helps local businesses to thrive and helps me maintain a good relationship with suppliers, ensuring the best produce for my menus.

Do you have a signature dish?

I work on dishes until I’m completely happy with the final result, so instead of one signature dish I’d say I have several. These include: asparagus, brioche crouton and rocket with quails egg and béarnaise sauce; and goat’s cheese mousse with beetroot purée, wild garlic and spinach meringue, caramelised walnut dust, watercress and apple salad, and rosemary sautéed potatoes.

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