Dave Gill

head chef at The Chameleon, learnt cookery from some of the finest in the land, his mother notwithstanding. He now relishes control in his own kitchen and is producing mouth-watering results

Tell me about your cooking

 I’m trained in classical French cuisine, which I learnt when I started my career at Malmaison under the London chef Ray Brown, who previously worked with Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay. He taught me everything I know. When I first started at The Chameleon, we initially served food in the style of a French bistro/brasserie, but we’ve recently changed to a more steakhouse style. I find the freedom of being able to cook whatever I want, the most exciting part of the job. As head chef, I get the final say on what we serve. I aim for consistent quality and that means buying high quality ingredients, always.

Describe your perfect meal

 Probably something like a steak – probably a 16oz T-bone cut cooked medium rare with a béarnaise sauce and fat cut chips. I also love steak tartare.

How did you become a chef?

 My mum used to work in The Mailbox when I was finishing school and she let me know that Malmaison was opening. I went to the Birmingham College of Food to study for my NVQs, as I’d always enjoyed cooking. I liked home economics at school and I did lots of cooking with my mum and family when I was growing up. I decided to play to my strengths and become a chef.

What do you eat when at home?

 I tend to eat things that are fairly quick to prepare when I’m working. I also like making a lamb mint curry and the spicier you can get it, the better. I like it as hot as you can get it but my fiancée doesn’t. I have to season the dishes separately. I also have a six-month-old daughter so I have to make plain foods that she can eat, things like pasta.

Who’s the best chef in the world, and who’s the best chef in Birmingham?

 Marco Pierre White or Gordon Ramsay purely because of their stature and the way they’ve changed people’s perceptions of the profession. Older chefs like Escoffier were the front runners, but they weren’t well known. For Birmingham, I’d say Glyn Purnell as his standards are high. There are lots of great chefs in Birmingham, but many are unheard of among the public.

Is the customer always right?

 Not at all. I’ve had various arguments with the waiters over issues some customers have had. It’s then the waiter’s job to go back to the table and give my response but in a more PC way, so I think I get away with it.

What’s the best thing about being a chef?

 The freedom of cooking what I want for an independent company. I rule the roost.

What’s the worst thing about being a chef?

 Probably the hours and the money, especially with having a baby daughter. I normally don’t start work until 11 o’clock in the morning and she’s normally awake by 7.30am so I spend time with her then and I spend all my time with her on my two days off a week.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?

 Originally I wanted to be a forensic scientist, I got the idea from watching television.

What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?

 Crab and chilli linguine with coriander battered soft shell crab. It’s my brainchild and I’ve finally been able to get it on the menu. I love the use of soft crab; it provides a whole different dimension.