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Holkham Hall

Michael Chamberlain – My life on a plate

Featured in issue 39 – September 2019

Michael_ChamberlainWho are you and what do you do?
I’m Michael Chamberlain and I’m the head chef at The Victoria Inn on the Holkham Estate. I’m 40 years old and I’m married to a wonderful wife and have two beautiful daughters. I was born in Thornham and have lived in Norfolk all my life.

Where did you train?
I guess informal training started when I was 13 and at high school in Hunstanton. I took my first holiday job at the Jolly Sailors in Brancaster working for Alister Borthwick.

When I left high school, I went to the College of West Anglia in King’s Lynn where I trained for three years under some great chefs – Mr Pate, Mr Young and Mrs Young (pastry). Half way through my first year I had an accident and broke my ankle badly and was very ill with it, so missed nearly half of the first year. I carried on with the paperwork side of the course from home and when I finally went back to college, I just knuckled down and worked hard to complete what I had missed. At the end of the second year I was asked if I would like to take the Level 3, which I said yes to, and stayed on for a third year.

Who’s your favourite chef?
I have a few!  However, in my top three would have to be Marco Pierre White, as I had the pleasure of working for him for three years and he gave me my first head chef position in 2013 at The Lifeboat Inn in Thornham.

What three ingredients are always in your store cupboard?
Cloves, star anise and juniper. The first two lend themselves to both sweet and savoury dishes, and the third is a must where game is concerned. Working here at The Vic, where we have an abundance of fresh wild game delivered straight to the kitchen door, we simply couldn’t be without it.

What’s your (foodie) guilty pleasure?
My guilty foodie pleasure has to be a chip butty with a good spreading of butter, so when you bite into it the butter runs down your fingers and the side of your mouth. It’s just heaven!

What’s your favourite tipple?
My favourite tipple is a hard one as I have two: as a long drink I love a pint of extra cold Guinness which, after a long day in the kitchen, is better than eating dinner, and my other is a nice glass of single malt whisky from St George’s Distillery here in Norfolk.

Describe your perfect meal
My perfect meal would have to be slow cooked free-range pork belly with dauphinoise potatoes, wilted kale, apple sauce and, of course, you can’t have pork without some proper crackling.

Where do you like to eat out in Norfolk and beyond?
In Norfolk, The Gunton Arms or The Brisley Bell, which are very different in style, appearance and in their food offerings. Further afield, Rules, in London, is amazing in a different way completely.  It is like stepping back in
time with old style service and classic French dishes created to an exemplary standard. I’ve always wanted to visit Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons too.

Tell us something we don’t know about yourself
I like to shoot wildfowl, game and clays, but rarely get the time these days. I’m also a big Land Rover fan and collect Land Rover models, toys and memorabilia.  I love the outdoor life and dream of having a smallholding with my own café/restaurant on site one day. 

What are your foodie predictions for the coming few months?
We’ve noticed the vegan food scene is getting bigger at The Vic, so we now incorporate vegan as well as vegetarian dishes on all our menus. I’m sure this is a trend that will continue to grow. 

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