Chef profile - Chris Parsons, Ribby Hall Village

Head chef at Ribby Hall Chris Parsons

Head chef at Ribby Hall Chris Parsons - Credit: Archant

It’s a cooking career that started with a tuna pasta bake and now Chris Parsons is head banqueting chef at Ribby Hall Village, venue for this year’s Lancashire Life Food & Drink Awards. He spoke to Roger Borrell

The chef you admire most:

Keith Floyd for his unadulterated flamboyance and because he cooked food I wanted to eat – except the puffin! (Floyd famously got into trouble with the Norwegian government for flambéing two of the protected birds)

Describe your working day at Ribby Hall:

It’s hugely varied. For instance, yesterday, I shelled 3kgs of broad beans and today I’m doing this interview. On a daily basis we cater for between ten and 350 covers. My talented brigade work tirelessly to exceed customers’ expectations. This in turn allows me to help develop their careers within the company.

Describe your style of cooking:

Fewer ingredients, maximum flavour

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What’s the first thing you remember cooking:

Tuna pasta bake

Do you have a signature dish:

Not really, but my wife’s favourite is a roast leg of lamb with a redcurrant & rose wine jus and potatoes cooked in duck fat, inspired by my time in France.

How much time do you spend developing dishes:

Each week, we create dishes for our conference clients using seasonal produce and we use these to trial for future events and wedding menus.

What are your favourite ingredients:

Charentaise melon, fennel and crab

What is your favourite local produce:

Game from the Ribble Valley

Your last meal:

Bouillabaisse - I like to have it every year when we visit Provence in the South of France overlooking some harbour with a carafe of cheap French wine! Oysters are a particular favourite along with sea trout and figs. I eat anything – unlike some of my chefs...

When did you first become interested in cookery:

The sponsors of the 2018 Lancashire Life Food nd Drink Awards

The sponsors of the 2018 Lancashire Life Food nd Drink Awards - Credit: Archant

At my parents’ hotel in Blackpool. I trained at the Imperial Hotel and as a 16-year-old spent the majority of my time within the pastry kitchen. Then onto the Devere Hotel working on all sections. I subsequently moved to London at the age of 20, working at Chelsea Football Club and the Royal Lancaster Hotel before moving onto France. I’m now into my 12th year at Ribby Hall Village, eight as head chef.

Who were your early teachers:

At school, it was Mr Edwards. He gave us some harsh lessons on the reality of life. Within catering, I’ve learnt from a number of chefs on my travels. Recent colleagues I have learnt most from include my previous executive head chef Stephen Jepson, who showed me the ways of admin (very important these days) and ultimately my senior food and beverages manager Paul Green, who has helped develop me enormously within my role as head chef. I’ve learnt more about managing myself and others from my current business & banqueting manager Susan Milburn with whom I’ve built a great relationship to develop the business.

What are the challenges of catering for an event like Lancashire Life’s Food & Drink Awards:

At Ribby, we really do enjoy a challenge. Creating a menu that suits everyone’s tastes and preferences is never going to be easy, especially when not wanting to compromise or jeopardise the finished dishes. That said, with a number of tasters pencilled in throughout the year and a few tweaks here and there, we will (as will you!) be more than happy with the menu we have put together. Working closely with all our suppliers to obtain the best possible produce we can will enable us to cater for our peers within the industry.

What can we expect to see on the night:

You can expect a creative bespoke menu that has had input from the entire business and banqueting brigade, alongside input and support from other head chefs from across The Village. Also expect exceptional front of house service. We are one team at Ribby and work closely to achieve the same goal, proving we are worthy of the opportunity to hold this event.

You could join the winners

Tickets are now available for the Lancashire Life and Lake District Life Food & Drink Awards, which take place on Monday, October 15 at Ribby Hall Village.

This black tie occasion is a night of drama and fun as we welcome the cream of the food and drink industry. A host of nominees will be hoping to be rewarded with one of Lancashire Life’s prestigious accolades for their flair and hard work in the area’s kitchens and dining rooms. The evening will also raise funds for Hospitality Action, which supports people from the industry who have fallen on hard times.

All nominations are put forward to our panel of independent judges – Trevor Stone, who headed the AstraZeneca catering operation, dedicated chef and lecturer Nick Hatch and Lancashire Life’s food and drink writer, Emma Mayoh, with editor Roger Borrell as chairman. They spent hours sifting through nominations, visiting establishments anonymously and then agree a shortlist for each category.

The winners are revealed during an exciting ceremony, held this year in Ribby Hall’s Woodland Suite.

Roger Borrell said: ‘Over the last two decades, the Lancashire Life Food & Drink Awards have become the foremost event in the culinary calendar. It’s a night of anticipation, drama and, above all, great fun. But there is also a serious side – recognising the outstanding food and drink on offer in Lancashire and the Lake District.’ For further details please email Kate Wilson at Tickets are £75 each plus VAT and the price includes a gin and fizz reception, a four course dinner and wine.

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