A career as an RAF high-flier beckoned until a last-minute open day visit to cookery college in Birmingham threw everything up into the air for the owner and chef at the Michelin-recommended Boat Inn, Liam Dillon
Tell us about your cooking
My cooking style is modern British. I think I only use a couple of ingredients that are not grown in the UK. This is very important to me. It would be very easy to use imported fruit and vegetables, but this country has amazing produce which needs to be championed!
How did you become a chef?
I think my love of cooking comes right back to the days watching my nana cook when I was younger. Seeing what she did and how good her food tasted planted the seed of cooking in my head. I first wanted to join the RAF as a pilot when leaving school but changed my mind after visiting an open day at the cooking college in Birmingham. I enrolled and fell in love. From there I’ve never looked back. I trained at world-renowned restaurants including Marcus Wareing, La Becasse, Five Fields and Story, as well as stints at Noma, Eleven Madison Park & Quay. I recently competed in Series 16 of TV’s Great British Menu 2021, representing the Central region. I have been chef-owner of the Michelin-recommended and 3 AA Rosette restaurant, the Boat Inn, in Lichfield since 2017.
What do you eat at home?
I love really simple fish dishes or a ‘one pot wonder’. If it’s after work and I’m won out and tired it’s usually something like peanut butter on toast or cheese!
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
That’s a tough one as there are so many chefs to choose from and so many different styles – so I’m going to skip giving you a name for either of those questions if that’s OK! It’s impossible to single anyone out as there are so many brilliant chefs around these days.
How has your restaurant adapted to the pandemic crisis?
We set up a Heat at Home packaged meal box. That was easy to bring together and also quite cost affective. We also turned the restaurant into a fried chicken takeaway which was a big hit and lots of fun. We also took the opportunity to do extensive work on the restaurant and the grounds during the closed period. We now have our own chickens which we get all our eggs from, a polytunnel for growing small amounts of produce and had the chance to change the dining space too.
Share a cooking tip
Don’t be scared to eat British pork that is not cooked well done. Single muscle pink pork isn’t a problem and hasn’t been a problem since the late 70s.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
Potato faces. No, really, truthfully… I loved them!
Food heaven and food hell?
Heaven is shellfish, and I’m not very fussy which. Hell is avocados, hate them with a passion!
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Grasshopper & grub garum while I was blending it to a paste at Noma. It was delicious!
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
A racing driver or something in motorsport.