We get a window into the life of Alec Mackins, Head Chef at Nutfield Priory Hotel & Spa. He shares career tips, his best creations, and why he’s besotted with beetroot.

Where did you cut your teeth in the Chefing world?

I started my career in London when I was 18, working for 4AA star restaurants and making my way up to Michelin star establishments. I had always wanted to be a chef – at the age of eleven I had already cooked my first full Christmas roast for the whole family! 

When did you start working at Nutfield Priory Hotel?

I’ve been here for over four years now and I’ve loved every minute. I had previously worked at one of the sister hotels, Woodlands Park in Cobham.  Nutfield is quite different - as each of the hotels is unique - with a well-established restaurant offering wonderful views of the countryside. We also welcome many loyal, regular guests, so it’s very gratifying. It’s fast-paced and exciting, and no day is the same.

What is your biggest tip for a budding ‘would be’ chef? 

Start high – you want to be in the top tier as quickly as possible. Work as hard as you can as early on as you can! 

What is the best starter, main and dessert you’ve ever created?

Starter: I created a foie gras variation with goose liver, smoked pan-fried peas and textures of celeriac. That was pretty good!

Main: Wild seabass with creamed potatoes, young leeks, and a beetroot and lobster ravioli

Dessert: When I worked in Germany I devised my own take on their Kaiserschmarrn (which is like a sweet shredded pancake). I turned this into a Kaiserschmarrn soufflé, with tamarillo and cinnamon ice cream.

Are there any other Chefs that inspire you? 

Yes, there are a few Head Chefs that were particularly inspiring to work with, and they were the ones that do not let any barriers stand in their way. It didn’t matter the cost, it didn’t matter the difficulty level, they only served the absolute best!

Is there a particular skill in the kitchen you are amazing at? 

I would say it has to be fish preparation. The team like to watch me prep a whole fish, as it’s a skill that lots of chefs don’t have anymore. This is because it’s so easy to purchase fish pre-filleted, so naturally the skill is fading away. I like to make sure my kitchen team is exposed to as many new skills as possible, as the more knowledge we collectively have, the better the team is.

What dish on the menu at Nutfield Priory right now would you highly recommend?

Definitely the “Pig and apple”. We use the very best parts of the pig and identify the most delicious flavours to go with it. It’s one of our best sellers and a dish I am very proud of.

Is there anything we should watch out for that’s coming up?

We’re always experimenting with our menu and evolving in response to our guests. I’m currently working on a starter called ‘Chicken Kiev’, but not as you’d expect it. I love taking a classic traditional dish, then refining and developing it so that it suits our establishment and will wow our guests. Watch this space!

Watch Alec create...