Five minutes with Michael Wignall:Michelin-star chef and head of Gidleigh Park hotel restaurant in Devon

Since 1993 chef Michael Wignall has won a Michelin star at every restaurant he has headed. This year, he has taken over the reins at the Gidleigh Park hotel restaurant in Devon.

Celebrated chef Michael Wignall gained his first Michelin star at Old Beams, Staffordshire. Despite having a promising career as a professional BMX rider, Wignall was persuaded by his parents to attend catering college. 

He has now been gained numerous Michelin stars and taken over the role of executive head chef at Gidleigh Park hotel, Devon.

What would you make for yourself for a simple evening meal?
A simple, staple dish I like to cook most Sundays for my family is a good quality, free range roast chicken with seasonal vegetables. It’s so easy to do and for me it’s back to basics cooking, which I enjoy doing at home.

What is your favourite kitchen utensil/gadget?
I have a couple, both quite classic. A Maurice spatula is a kitchen essential. It’s good for simple things but also great for different cooking techniques. The other has to be a good, sturdy food mixer – great for everything, from basic to technical dishes.

What's your favourite recipe to make?
Meadowsweet aerated parfait – a very technical dish which takes time and precision but is well worth the hard work. It’s a two day process to make, which involves picking the meadowsweet from the gardens of Gidleigh Park, making oil from the meadowsweet, then using this to bake the parfait. The remaining oil is aerated to create a fantastic melt-in-the-mouth consistency.

Wignall's favourite simple dish to cook is a Sunday free range roast chicken with seasonal vegetables (Image: David Griffin)

The one item or ingredient that you’re currently obsessed with?
Peaches are a beautiful fruit and once in season, it automatically feels like summer. One of the dishes we currently have at the restaurant is Peaches and Garden Pea. A lot of people tend to poach peaches. We roast them in individual foil beds for 4-5 minutes and then peel the skin off. The peaches are then vacuum-packed in 10 per cent of the natural juices for one hour, to allow the natural sugars to soak into the body of the peach.

Garden peas are naturally quite sweet, especially when picked quite early on. We grow our own, so are able to keep a close eye on these in order to pick them just at the right time for this type of dish.  The freshness of the peas and the natural sweetness of the peaches work beautifully together, both visually and in taste.

Your favourite London restaurant?
It's very subjective as it depends on the cuisine, but The Ledbury is definitely one of my favourites. The dishes are ever-evolving, something I’m really passionate about, and it has a lovely atmosphere with great style. Hibiscus on Maddox street is also another great restaurant. These days, the standard is so high and exciting, it is hard to choose just one.

How do you approach your own diet? 
I’m lucky that I’ve never really had to look into my own diet. I’m on my feet a lot of the time and when I’m not working, I’m at the beach wake surfing. This has been another passion of mine for many years. I have however recently cut my sugar and caffeine intake down.

At Gidleigh we pride ourselves on the amount of vegetables grown in our gardens, we even have a dedicated vegetable tasting menu, which changes, along with our other menu options seasonally. I think its really important, as a chef, to not just focus on the protein, as it’s just a skill to cook vegetables to perfection.

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