Liam Finnegan, Head Chef at The Castle Hotel in Taunton
Liam’s the latest chef to take the helm at prestigious foodie destination The Castle at Taunton (past head chefs have included Gary Rhodes and Phil Vickery). He talks to food about his favourite places to eat out and balancing home and family life
Where have you worked previously?
The George Hotel in Yarmouth, Gidleigh Park and The Bath Priory with Michael Caines, The Nuremore and Rosso with Ray McArdle, I was in Co. Kerry in Ireland for a bit in The Lime Tree and Mulcahys. All fantastic and varied restaurants, which I believe is essential for any young aspiring chef – you need lots of mentors with different philosophies and techniques.
Early food memory?
My nan’s brown soda bread with butter – it’s epic. I was a bit of a menace as a child so I used to have to help my nanny with baking, mainly so she could keep an eye on me! I learned from a young age to appreciate the hard work and graft it takes to cook quality food.
Where do you like to eat out?
Augustus or the Willow tree in Taunton – two of the town’s best restaurants. Richard Guest (a former Castle at Taunton chef) and Darren Sherlock are two of the top chefs in the South West.
What’s your biggest inspiration at the moment?
My family and all the team at the Castle at Taunton. Working with a great team is a must and it makes work so much more fun.
What do you wish you’d known ten years ago?
Keep it simple, which is Kit Chapman and the Castle’s philosophy on British food. It takes a confident chef to stand behind a well sourced, simple and perfectly executed dish.
What was the most challenging time in your career?
Balancing my home life and work now. With the arrival of our 3rd child I need to spend time with family, and luckily the Castle Hotel allows me to do that. With a well organised, skilled and professional team in place it’s very easy.
What’s your favourite pub?
I have two – the Kings Arm’s for football and the Plough on Station Road for a pint after work with the team.
What’s your favourite way to cook?
Old school. I love basting and braising. Coming into the autumn season the nights draw in earlier and we get heartier, comfort foods. It’s one of my favourite seasons. I always source from local suppliers and have developed great relationships by talking to them and learning from them.
Who would you most like to have supper with?
Russell Brand, Halle Berry, Bill Hicks, Muhammad Ali, with some midway entertainment by Michael Jackson!
What’s your favourite weekend breakfast?
My wife cooks me poached eggs, crispy bacon on toasted sourdough every Sunday. It’s not entirely healthy, but is great after a tough week at work.