Five minutes with Lisa Goodwin-Allen
Lisa Goodwin-Allen has now been in her new post of Executive Chef at Northcote for just over 3 months. In that time it has been a whirlwind of activity, with our Christmas program and then the gastronomic marathon of Obsession18. Now is the time for Lisa to launch her NEW Tasting Menu of 6 courses.
“Food to me is emotive, it’s my personality on a plate. I put my heart and soul into each creation. I like food to be very visual, elegant and packed full of great flavours and textures. It must taste of what you see. Inspiration for my dishes always starts with the produce, from the relationships built with my suppliers and understanding the heritage of the land. One of the great joys of food is working with the seasons, it’s the key to bringing the fresh, clean and honest flavours I love to bring to my menus.” Lisa Goodwin-Allen
Learn more about Lisa in our Q&A with her recently….
Have you always wanted to be a chef? Where does the passion come from?
My passion for food was first started as a teenager. I struggled at school but enjoyed practical subjects especially Home Economics and found my niche with food. It was a chance to be creative but it was also a way for me to shine.
I was very shy as a young girl. Cooking was my way of expressing myself and showing my personality. It was a really good thing for me. I knew it was something I’d love to do. I was obsessed with home economics. I loved going to school with my little wicker basket with all the ingredients in. We’d always make something like quiche lorraine. I loved cooking at home, too. I loved to cook at home too and learned from my Mum and Nana.
Working with Nigel Haworth since 2001 must be inspirational, tell us more.
I’ve worked with Nigel a long time and he has been a mentor to me. I was here at Northcote learning the ropes aged 23 and I’m still learning now. Nigel taught me how to run a brigade and how to develop a dish. He’s a true legend. They are big shoes to fill but good shoes!
You also worked with two Michelin star chef, David Evereitt-Mathias at Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham. That must have been an amazing experience?
Working at Le Champignon was probably one of the best experiences in my culinary career because it is such a small kitchen. Working one-to-one with David Everitt-Matthias was amazing – his philosophy of food, his love of ‘nature to plate’, the way he uses ingredients, he uses everything, butchered his own animals, showed you all the different ways to break things down and gave me insights into every ingredient. It was such a small kitchen so I got to learn so much more. He’s incredible and it shows – look where he is today, 2 Michelin stars very well-known and very respected.
The philosophy at Northcote is very similar, we use local produce, looking in detail at the ingredient. David taught me a lot about food. I was inspired by his ambition and philosophy and learned about discipline and creativity.
Taking over as Executive Head Chef at Northcote sounds challenging. Is it made any harder because you’re a woman?
I don’t think it’s harder being a woman – it’s hard no matter who you are.
There’s so much more responsibility – I am the ‘go-to’ person, it’s all on my shoulders now, which is good because it’s a challenge. I think it’s what I was ready for. I have the responsibility of the whole kitchen now, all the staff and suppliers, which is massive as our operation is so big.
What is the process of putting together a new menu?
The menu changes all the time driven by seasonal and local produce.
Developing a new menu is a massive undertaking. We’re constantly developing new dishes and looking for inspiration from new, seasonal and local ingredients.
Putting together a new menu is all about creating balance. The seasons are a key factor in developing our tasting and gourmet menus.
What are the most important factors when creating a new dish?
Developing a new dish is a massive undertaking. We always start with the ingredients, I’m inspired by the seasons and by local producers and then we think about what you can do with them. We work together as a team brainstorming ideas. Sometimes a new dish can come together quickly, other times it takes weeks of development to get it right – taking something off, adding another element.
Favourite home-cooked meal?
My Mum’s Cottage Pie – I’ve no idea how she makes it but I love it. The perfect comfort food.
Who are your culinary heroes?
Other female chefs especially Angela Hartnett, look what she’s become, one of the top female chefs in the country, at the very top of her game, well-known and very well-respected in the industry. She has worked incredibly hard to get there. I’d say her influence has given me a stronger drive in my career, and she’s a great friend as well as an inspiration. And of course Nigel and David Evereitt-Mathias.
What advice would you give your 18-year old self, starting your career in the industry?
Absorb everything going on around you like a sponge. Be willing to learn and be open to advice. Get all the experience that you can.
The more effort you put in the more you will achieve.
What are you trying to achieve for the Northcote restaurant?
I’m passionate, hungry and dedicated, and I always like to see myself moving forward and progressing as a chef, as a manager and as a mentor. I am an ambitious character so moving into this Executive Chef role is an honour.
And 2 stars?
I think everyone would love two Michelin stars but we are not focusing on it too much – we are going to achieve what we can as a team. You can’t get too fixated on it, you have to allow it to come naturally. What we have to concentrate on is consistently producing outstandingly brilliant food – all the time.”
It’s important to me to see the team developing and progressing – always learning and moving with the times. I want the team to achieve as much as we can together.
Giving back to the industry and training staff is hugely important to me. I love to encourage people to come into this fantastic industry where you can learn so much and meet so many interesting people. At Northcote we offer opportunities for a progressive career.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
My little boy is three now and he’s just at that age where I can start involving him in cooking so we make biscuits or cakes together although he spends most of his time licking the bowl! He loves it when we’re making stuff on the stove, I’ve taught him how to crack eggs and he loves making omelette with different cheeses in – I think it’s really important to bring them up with different flavours and being open to trying new things!
I love being a mum! But since having a child I am more disciplined. It adds a different challenge, but I’ve made it work and for the better.
Out of work it’s all about spending time with my husband and one, getting out and about in our local area visiting farms and things.
- Take a look at Lisa Goodwin-Allen’s new menus