Tom Kavanagh

What’s it to be? Cockroach and scorpion in Thailand or roast lamb and nan’s homemade jam tarts? It’s no contest for the Tom Kavanagh, head chef at Blake’s Restaurant 

Tell us about your cooking

It’s definitely modern British, but some French influences do sneak in because I was classically trained in the French Alps for more than two years, which was amazing and had a huge impact on me. Other than that, we always try to use local ingredients and to really get the best out of the food, rather than just brainlessly cooking it.

How did you become a chef?

My nan was always cooking and we would always bake together at Christmas time – everything from baking Christmas puddings and cakes to making soups together. Those memories are really important to me and I know I got my love of cooking from my nan.

What do you eat when you’re at home?

Like most chefs, I love to eat simple, tasty things at home… like shepherd’s pie. My favourite meal is probably spaghetti bolognese.

Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?

In Birmingham, for me it has to be Brad Carter. He’s really done it all on his own and had no help getting his Michelin star, but really just pushed on and got it through hard work. In the world, I’d say Marco Pierre White, purely because he was the first chef in London to get a Michelin star but ended up putting his foot down and giving it back. I think this is so admirable because of the way it is easy for restaurants to be walked all over by that world, and in giving it back, he really showed a true passion for food.

Is the customer always right?

No. [Laughing] Absolutely not. But, you have to be able to play the game and if you like going out and meeting the guests in the restaurant, which I like to do, you need to be able to make that person happy and always recognise that some opinions are better off not voicing!

Share a cooking tip.

Okay, I’ve got a really good one actually. Making eggs Benedict seems to be a bit of a trend at the moment and so, instead of standing there whisking hollandaise by hand, use a food processor, add your eggs and white wine reduction and all that slowly, and you’ll end up with the best hollandaise sauce you’ve ever made with the best consistency.

What was your favourite food as a kid?

My mum was one of those strict mums who never let us eat too many sweets growing up. I was never allowed fizzy pop or Smarties! But my nan used to make homemade jam and we’d have these great homemade jam tarts. They were such a big treat to me because we weren’t normally allowed sugary things.

Food heaven and food hell?

Heaven is definitely a lamb Sunday roast. Hell is smoked salmon, even in sushi. I don’t know why, I just can’t get past the texture.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?

Well, I had a cockroach while I was in Thailand, and that was horrible. I tried scorpion too. I’m not sure which was worse!

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

A primary school teacher. I had a bit of experience working in schools and I think it would be a really rewarding career to have. And I think, like being a chef, when you work with kids if it’s gone a bit wrong you know about it very quickly – immediate feedback!

What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?

The roasted striploin of lamb with sauteed green beans, potato dauphinoise, watercress puree and a mint jus is fantastic.

Blake’s Restaurant, Westmead Hotel, Redditch Road, Hopwood, Alvechurch, Birmingham B48 7AL. Tel: 0121 445 1202