international chef’s day – 20th October

While we all adore the indulgent treat that is eating out at a good restaurant, whether for a hearty breakfast, light lunch or a full sit-down, five course feast, we may not always appreciate the energy, effort and love that has gone into our favourite dish. Sometimes a chef has perfected a meal during years of practice, making tweaks to the original recipe until it is a whole new creation. The genesis of a dish may be the result of a happy accident when experimenting with ingredients, or maybe it could be a classic dish, passed down from mentors or family members, just how Gran used to make it…October 20th sees the annual International Chefs Day, where we recognise and celebrate our culinary heroes, and also raise awareness of the importance of eating a healthy balanced diet to people across the world. At Una Kitchen we are very lucky to have the vastly experienced, and multi-talented, Glenn Gatland as our Head Chef, and with Glenn at the helm the restaurant at Una has gone from strength to strength. Glenn has worked in high-end establishments all over Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and he brings a love of fresh, locally sourced ingredients along with an adventurous and open-minded approach to cuisine to Una Kitchen. As you can imagine, Glenn is a very busy man but we managed to pin him down to ask a few questions.

Glenn, thank you for squeezing in the time to chat with us and answer a few questions. Firstly, can you describe your journey as a chef and how you chose to join the Una Kitchen team? 

I started training as a chef at the age of 13. I struggled with school initially, and found that I was the type of pupil that responded to practical learning much more positively than sitting still and being taught. A course was available at school that gave me a great head start into catering and, following a move to Cornwall from Sussex, I went on to a further education course at Cornwall College in St Austell. I’m delighted that, at that stage, I made the decision to stay in the duchy to build the foundations of my career, and I went on to learn so much from living by the Cornish coast, working with incredible produce and with some fantastic people. I worked part time at The Fowey Hotel whilst at college then moved around for a further three years before taking my first Head Chef position and was awarded 2 AA rosettes when I was 21! By the age of 30 I had been awarded 3 AA rosettes, and had earned entries into the Good Food Guide and the Trenchermans Guide. An offer of a position on the stunning Isles of Scilly led to a ten year stint, resulting in the ‘Hell Bay Hotel’ on Bryher gaining its first 3-Rosette award, and to finally running the kitchens of three busy restaurants on the island of Tresco.

When I felt it was time to move back to the mainland, Una St Ives was just about to begin its journey and I found it an attractive proposition, with the plans to have the restaurant centred around a wood fired oven a key factor in shaping my decision to join the team at Una.

The life of a Head Chef can definitely be stressful at times, and very busy. What is your favourite way to relax after a long shift in the kitchen?

I passed my motorcycle test last year and enjoy exploring different parts of Cornwall on my motorbike. for the past three years I have been a Devon & Cornwall Police support volunteer. I am a vehicle checker and ensure that all the cars based at Penzance are maintained and roadworthy, it may seem strange but I find this both relaxing and rewarding and spend 4hrs of my days off each week at Penzance police station.

A slightly obvious question, but an interesting one nonetheless: What is your favourite dish to prepare and your favourite ingredients to work with?

Pizza, such a simple dish that is so easy to get very wrong, when its made and cooked correctly there is nothing better than a simple well cooked pizza,

My favourite produce is usually the more readily available type (in West Cornwall anyway!) that with a little bit of effort can be more impactful and tasty than more expensive, prime ingredients. I love working with good quality, locally sourced pork belly, beef mince, lamb shank, and Cornish fish like hake, megrim sole or haddock. Keep it simple and use quality ingredients.

Who were your culinary heroes while you were cutting your teeth in your early days as a chef, and who do you admire these days?

I have never really followed celebrity chefs, my heroes were the chefs and lecturers that took the time to train me so well, and teach me never to cut corners. Of course I used to watch Gary Rhodes, Anthony Worral Thompson and Marco Pierre White back in the 90’s. To be honest, today the only TV chef that I admire for his honesty and refusal to follow trends is James Martin. I feel that if we were in the same kitchen together that we would work well as a team and have a great laugh along the way.

When helping train inexperienced or apprentice chefs, do you find yourself drawing on lessons that you were taught as trainee? Do you enjoy the role as mentor to young people at the start of their journey in the kitchen?

Unfortunately, there was a real shortage of young people wanting to enter the hospitality sector, the result of over working and under paying employees for decades. This has changed over the past five years and Una St Ives is about to welcome its first Apprentice Chef since opening. I do enjoy teaching young people and used to spend time at Wadebridge School tutoring year 10 students to cook and encouraging them to experiment with flavours. There is something very satisfying about training someone to cook correctly, I feel that too many young people are not trained properly in the basics and this hinders their progression to more senior positions, which has resulted in a lowering of the standard of food preparation across the industry. In my opinion this requires attention and investment. The main reason that I have found success and fulfilment as a professional chef is due to the standards instilled in me at a young age as a trainee, and I am delighted that I can be in a position to pass this on to the next generation of talented and eager young chefs.

What is your favourite item of kitchen equipment, one that you couldn’t imagine being without?

The Gozney wood fired oven, such an inspirational and rewarding oven to use!

If you could get one message out to the young people of the world for the upcoming International Chefs Day, one piece of useful advice when it comes to eating well and maintaining a healthy diet, what would it be?

Just eat fresh food, it doesn’t need to be fancy or exotic, just make sure you cook what ever you want with fresh ingredients. A well made beef burger as an example is not bad for you, and includes good nutrients etc. without the nasty preservatives and additives that ultra-processed, frozen or fast food products include. Don’t over think things. Just cook!

Great advice! Thanks again for giving us your time Glenn. Final question: Your dream meal. Who would it be with, where would it be and what would be on the menu?

It would be with Justin, my College friend who we sadly lost thirty years ago. We would be dining in Flanders Restaurant, Cornwall College, St Austell in 1989. We’d be eating Strawberry Bavarois! Wonderful memories of my time spent with an ambitious and excellent chef who still provides me with inspiration to this day.

Experience Glenn Gatland’s delicious culinary creations for yourself by booking a table at Una Kitchen for breakfast, lunch or evening dinner.