Meet the chef - Hrishikesh Desai, Gilpin Hotel, Windermere

Hrishikesh Desai at Gilpin

Hrishikesh Desai at Gilpin - Credit: Gilpin

Hrishikesh Desai has been head chef at Windermere’s Gilpin, since 2015. He is a former winner of BBC2’s Chefs on Trial as well as the Roux Scholarship and the Craft Guild of Chef’s National Chef of the Year. He has worked in some of the world’s top kitchens and this month will take part in Obsession 22 at Northcote. 

What was your favourite meal when you were young? 
Paneer butter masala with laccha paratha. I still remember that dish. It was the chewy, soft taste of the paneer, the flavour of the tomatoes and the masala and the lightness of the flatbread but with a crispy element. That was a three-star dish for me. 

What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at? 
Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry in California. I went there for a three-month stage when I won The Roux Scholarship. He’s an incredible person and his food is out of this world. The French Laundry cookbook is like a bible for so many of us chefs and I’m so glad I went there. 

Which is your favourite local ingredient to work with? 
Game from Cartmel Valley Game. We’ve got good water, good grass and good soil in this region. It’s the perfect place for game to breathe and move around and enjoy. It’s the flavour of Lakeland. 

What inspired you to become a chef? 
I always wanted to be in hospitality but never wanted to become a chef. When I was about five-years-old, my family attended a wedding at the only 5-star hotel in Pune, the Blue Diamond. Everything about it made me think I should own a hotel of my own.
My mum knew the hospitality industry is based on the French basics of l’Arts de la Table et Cuisine, and enrolled me in French speaking classes at Alliance Francaise de Poona, helping me win a month’s scholarship to Institute Paul Bocuse in Lyon. There I saw a crème brûlée being blow torched to caramelise the sugar – the blow torch on the sugar changed my world. At that moment I decided to become a chef.  

When you get home at the end of a long day, what do you like to eat? 
My favourite is a bowl of toasted muesli, cold milk, a handful of mixed nuts and crushed tea biscuits. It sounds weird and looks absolutely messy but I love it. 

What do you love about the Lake District? 
I love the purity, we are blessed with stunning nature, clean air, clean water, great produce and amazing people. It is the place buzzing full of the good energy of the north. 

Favourite Lancashire chef? 
Lisa Goodwin-Allen has inspired me to be the best I can be – I've always admired her culinary style and work ethos. It's an honour to be asked to cook at Northcote's Obsession 22, I'm so looking forward to working with Lisa and her team. If I'm to choose where to eat in Lancashire it's got to be Northcote, Steven Smith's Freemasons or Mark Birchall's Moor Hall.