The head chef of the Star & Garter in Leamington Spa, Stefan Elliot, found his love of food on a Lancashire cheese farm before working in Michelin-starred kitchens in the UK and in Spain
Tell us about your cooking
My cooking style is influenced by my life’s journey and travels. I lived in Madrid for a while and spent time in the incredible kitchen of Sergi Arola. This opened my mind to a whole different style of cooking, working with amazing ingredients and different flavours and made me the chef I am today. The buzz of seeing people enjoying my food never leaves me. I love cooking dishes people recognise but I always add a twist.
How did you become a chef?
I left school at 16 to work on a farm in Lancashire. It was here I learned to make Mrs Kirkham’s famous cheese. One day, they took me to a food festival where I got asked to cover a bread stall while the owners were doing a cookery demo. I sold all the bread and a chef from North Wales asked me to go and work for him. After two years, I moved back to Lancashire and cooked with some excellent chefs like Warrick Dodds and Marc Guilbert. Then I spread my wings and cooked in Spain in some amazing restaurants.
What do you eat when at home?
My wife is Spanish, so we try and eat Spanish and Mediterranean food quite often to keep her happy! I love it too.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
I have to say that Gordon Ramsay influenced me a great deal. Growing up at the time, he was everywhere and his cookbooks played a big part of my study of cooking. I also admire Tom Kerridge whose food is fantastic and yet very down to earth. I can’t wait for our slot at his Pub in the Park event in Warwick in June. Best in Brum? I’ve only lived in the area for a short time but of course Glynn Purnell’s reputation precedes him.
Is the customer always right?
Theoretically no, but in essence yes. At our pub, we want everyone to have the best experience they can so we do everything we can to make them as happy as possible.
Share a cooking tip
Keep things simple, taste and season as you go. It’s amazing how much a difference a pinch or two of salt can make to a dish.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
I think chilli con carne was probably my favourite.
Food heaven and food hell?
Heaven is a nice fish like turbot, a good steak or a selection of cured meats with a glass of wine. Hell is sprouts and parsnips.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
At the time, I thought it was either snails or frogs’ legs. But nowadays, they are not really unusual anymore.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I’d develop my Spanish to a better standard and teach it.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
The Brixham hand-picked potted crab, topped with lobster glazed butter.