Page 138 - Kingham Plough Newspaper Reviews
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Crimson Edge Public Relations Yellow News
The Staff Canteen (Web)
05 February 2015
Emily Watkins, chef-patron of The Kingham Plough, Gloucestershire
What were your first experiences of cooking and how did you get into it professionally?
Emily Watkins is the chef-patron of The Kingham Plough in Gloucestershire. After learning her trade in Italy and
at Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck, Emily decided to open her own place, The Kingham Plough, which has
now been running successfully for six years.
The Staff Canteen caught up with the 34-year-old Great British Menu contestant and mother of three to find out
about balancing the traditional with the modern and work life with family life.
The thing about good cooking is that it all comes from greed - I always loved eating. Growing up, my mum was a
good cook and I had two sisters who loved cooking so it was probably one of those few households where people
fight to get their turn to cook! My mum manages a country hotel down in Dorset where we spent a lot of holidays
picking spinach and doing pot wash duties - all the glamorous kinds of things that your mum ropes you into doing
to earn your pocket money!
After school I wanted to be a chef but I was a bit discouraged to be honest because it wasn't really considered a
female profession b ack then, 16 or 17 years ago, so I ended up going to university in Bristol to do a degree in
business. After uni I had an office job for six months and I've never been so bored in my life - or so useless at a
job actually! So I packed my bags and went off to Italy armed with a Michelin guide and no CV of any
I went to Florence because I had a friend of a friend who was living there. I'd marked in the guide all the
restaurants that I wanted to work in. They all turned me down at first but I persevered and luckily number two on
my list, a restaurant called Ristorante Beccofino, took pity on me and said that if I waitressed for them, I could do
two days a week in the kitchen; that lasted for two months then they gave me a full time contract in the kitchen.
At first I couldn't speak a word of the language, which funnily enough was an advantage because I couldn't
understand anything they were saying when they were shouting at me!
Then you came back to the UK, to Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck; that must have been a particularly exciting
Yes and because I didn't have the formal college education and because I only knew some of the terminology in
Italian it was a really good place for me. The way Heston cooks and the way he encourages you to think in the
kitchen, is not to take for granted everything you've been taught at college, so actually it was an advantage to me
not having that kind of training.
Everyone goes into The Fat Duck as a commis. I started in larder and it was so eye-opening - totally different to
what I'd been doing before. Everybody there was enthused. It was a very positive working environment, definitely
not of the ethos of beating people down but one of encouragement. Everyone was interested in food and
everyone talked about food all the time and of course Heston was an inspiration to work for. I absolutely loved
every second I was there; unfortunately I had a hip problem which meant I either had to have a hip replacement
or change my way of life for a year.

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