Three Wise Chefs

We caught up with some of our favourite chefs to find out what they had planned for the festive period. We spoke to Luke Thomas, Stephen Terry and Aled Williams.

Luke Thomas has come a long way from working at a local butchers aged 12 to launching his first restaurant this year. He won FutureChef 2009, coming top against 7,500 competitors aged just 15, and has gone on to work with some of the UK’s top chefs, including Heston Blumenthal and Gary Rhodes.

Born in North Wales, Luke balanced his school studies with weekend and evening jobs in the Michelin starred kitchens of the Chester Grosvenor Hotel & Spa, the acclaimed restaurant Soughton Hall, and alongside award-winning butcher Steve Vaughan. Setting his sights high, Luke went on to secure further experience at Odette’s, La Gavroche (2008), The Berkeley, Gary Rhodes W1, La Pergola in Rome (2009), The Fat Duck (April 2010) and Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa. Luke has also worked in the kitchens of international three Michelin-starred restaurants such as Alinea in Chicago, the exclusive pop-up restaurant The French Laundry at Harrods in autumn 2011 and the two Michelin starred Vila Joya in Portugal.

Luke has now launched Luke’s Dining Room, at Sanctum on the Green, making him the UK’s youngest head chef at just 18 years old.

Stephen Terry has a great pedigree. From starting off his career with Marco Pierre White to achieving a Michelin star (for the second time) at The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny, Stephen’s talents have recently been witnessed on TV courtesy of The Great British Menu.

After training with Marco at Harvey’s, Stephen went to Le Gavroche where his introduction to classic French cooking became an integral part of the foundation of his philosophy to cooking. He won his first Michelin star at the age of 25 at The Canteen in Chelsea Harbour for Marco and Michael Caine. After time with Alain Passard, and as Head Chef of Oliver Peyton’s Coast, he was approached by Francesco Taruschio to purchase The Walnut Tree Inn. In 2002, a year after opening, Stephen won a Michelin star. Two years later, he returned to London to a position as Head Chef consultant at Cecconis, and then The Pear Tree Inn, Whitley, Wiltshire.

It was whilst commuting from home in South Wales that The Horse & Jockey Pub came on the market. With the help of family and friends the acclaimed Hardwick was born within four weeks of purchase.

Aled Williams is the Head Chef of restaurant Cennin and café Moo baa oinc in Beaumaris, where he is proud to use the finest Welsh produce and award winning meat from their own farm.

After gaining experience in some of the world’s best restaurants he has returned home to open his first restaurant on Anglesey. After winning the Gordon Ramsay Scholarship in 2006 Aled went on to work for Gordon in London and New York. He also trained with Heston Blumenthal in the Fat Duck as well as many other Michelin starred restaurants across Wales and England.

After being asked to represent Wales on BBC2’s Great British Menu in 2010, Aled was crowed the regional champion and was the youngest chef ever to achieve this. Aled now appears on many cookery programmes for S4C and is a regular on Radio Cymru.

What does Christmas mean to you?

Luke: It’s a family time. It’s the one time of the year that I get to spend quality time with my family, and I get the chance to cook for them and catching up with my friends.

Stephen: A day off with the family and probably the only day in the year when I eat three meals.

Aled: Christmas to me is all about family, I have never worked a Christmas day and that is very rare for a chef. I love how the food brings everyone together and it’s the only day of the year you can stuff your face and get away with it! I have a house full this year with my wife’s family and mine all joining us as well as my excited two year old daughter.

What is the perfect Christmas starter?

Luke: Prawn Cocktail, with loads of smoked salmon and buttered brown bread cut into triangles.

Stephen: Deep fried bread crumbed avocado, poached langoustines in homemade Marie rose sauce made with smoked Tabasco, Black Mountain Smokery smoked salmon and tardivo.

Aled: My perfect Christmas starter would be Chicken liver parfait with crusty bread, chutneys and pickles.

What’s the perfect Christmas main course?

Luke: I hate turkey, so we’ll be having honey roasted ham with loads of red cabbage, roasted parsnips, gravy, creamed leeks, cranberry sauce and mustard. I’ll be getting the ham from Harwarden Estate Farm Shop.

Stephen: Madgett’s Farm turkey breast, brined and slow cooked in a water bath, boned, stuffed and rolled turkey leg, Ty Mawr Farm Organics cabbage with native breeds Gloucestershire cure back bacon, Amanda Stradling (Veggies Galore) heritage carrots in white sauce, triple cooked roast potatoes in duck fat, stuffing made with Alex Gooch’s sourdough bread, Usk River cranberry sauce.

Aled: As a family we always have Turkey. I take off the legs, de-bone them and stuff them with an apricot and pistachio stuffing. I sauté my sprouts with smoked bacon, do a cauliflower and mushroom crumble, leek and Welsh mustard bake, savoy cabbage, lots of root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes and celeriac roasted with Anglesey honey, and not forgetting goose fat roasted potatoes.

What’s the perfect Christmas dessert?

Luke: My Nan’s trifle. I think I like it so much because it’s quite bland and stodgy – it’s something I remember having as a child. She uses swiss roll and tinned fruit cocktail, which I really love! There’s no jelly, as I hate jelly in trifle, Ambrosia custard, but no cream.

Stephen: Auntie Shirley’s (my Fairy Godmother) Christmas Pudding with brandy custard.

Aled: I really don’t like Christmas pudding so my Nain used to always do a baked rice pudding for me as it was my favourite! I’m sure this year i will have to keep the tradition going as well as a chocolate brownie!

If you could only have one drink over the Christmas period, what would it be?

Luke: Malibu and cranberry.

Stephen: A big one!

Aled: My drink of choice is usually Coke as I don’t drink much alcohol.

What do you do with your time off?

Luke: I will be spending time with family and friends, going out for lots of lunches and dinners, and hopefully going away to Dubai or the Caribbean for a couple of days.

Stephen: What I’m told.

Aled: My time off is always based around spending time with my family. You miss out on a lot to being a chef so any free time I have is with my wife and daughter.

What’s on your Christmas list?

Luke: Apart from the usual socks and that kind of thing, cook books always go down well. I also like kitchen gadgets, the sort of thing you get from Lakeland.

Stephen: A second site in Cardiff.

Aled: Sat Bains and Phil Howards new cook books.