Lisa Goodwin-Allen takes over the reins at Northcote
- Credit: Archant
Lisa Goodwin-Allen has taken over the top spot at Michelin starred Northcote. She talks to Emma Mayoh about getting the keys to the castle
‘It’s definitely weird not having Nigel around all the time,’ admitted Lisa Goodwin-Allen talking about Nigel Haworth’s role change from chef patron and joint managing director to ambassador at Northcote. ‘You get used to being around one another. He’s been my mentor and has guided me through my career. It was always going to feel strange.’
It’s been a matter of weeks since executive head chef Lisa took over the reins at the luxury Langho hotel – a business with an international reputation for food and hospitality. But it’s plain that Morecambe-born Lisa doesn’t intend to let standards slip.
‘There is a certain pressure, of course, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,’ she said. ‘I’m feeling really good about it. Nigel is a great mentor; to take the reins is a great privilege.
‘It gives me a chance to grow. There will be more of the food I love to produce and develop.’
Lisa’s passion for food was first ignited as a teenager. She loved cooking in her Home Economics class at Carnforth High School. Not only was it a chance to be creative but it was also a way for her to shine.
‘I was obsessed with home economics,’ she said. ‘I loved going to school with my little wicker basket with all the ingredients in. We’d always make something like quiche lorraine. I loved cooking at home, too.
‘I was very shy as a young girl. Cooking was my way of expressing myself and showing my personality. It was a really good thing for me. I knew it was something I’d love to do.’
After studying at Lancaster and Morecambe College, Lisa worked as a commis chef at Holbeck Ghyll in the Lake District and the renowned two Michelin starred Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham.
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But it was the pull of Lancashire that brought her to Northcote 14 years ago. She was just 22 but by the time she was 23 she was head chef, making her one of the youngest women to run a Michelin star kitchen.
The mum of one has stayed at Northcote for longer than most but that hasn’t stifled her ambitions. In fact, it has had the opposite impact on her development as one of Britain’s best chefs.
‘There’s always been something new for me to strive for, always a new challenge,’ said Lisa, 36. ‘If that hadn’t been the case I probably would have moved on. But I never needed to. We’ve never stood still. We’ve always been driving forward.
‘There have been so many changes since I started here. When I first came the kitchen was pretty tiny. There would be six of us on duty.
‘It’s definitely not that way now – there are 29 chefs on the rota. It’s great for us and also gives a better balance between work and life. Since becoming a mum that’s become really important.
‘Northcote as a whole is very different, too. The business has changed massively. That’s a really exciting thing to be a part of.’
Northcote has been much more than a place to work for Lisa. She has become renowned in her field – she was the first woman to win Great British Menu, she has earned Northcote a raft of awards and was named Lancashire Life’s Chef of the Year.
She has also got married to Steve, who works down the road at Yu and You and became a mum to now three-year-old Teddy-Ray. They all live in Clitheroe.
And when your mum runs the kitchens at Northcote, you get certain privileges. For Teddy-Ray that means he gets to know where the goody cupboard is.
‘He always goes straight for the biscuits,’ said Lisa. ‘When he first started coming in he was pretty shy but that’s certainly not the case now. He knows exactly where we keep things, he comes tearing in and helps himself. I like that. It means he’s comfortable.’
But while Teddy-Ray is unaware that his mum is a culinary star, her colleagues are very aware of her talents. When Lisa turns out a new dish, staff immediately huddle around, watching their boss at work.
Just as Nigel mentored Lisa, she has carried on that role advising young chefs who have gone to work in some of the best kitchens. Locally, she mentored Tom Parker from the much-lauded White Swan.
‘He’s a top chef,’ said Lisa. ‘A really good guy and we’re proud that he came through here. Northcote has had a lot of chefs who have trained here and gone on to do amazing things. It’s an important part of our job, to nurture that talent.
‘That is going to remain important to me. It’s about giving back to the industry and training staff is massively important. I want to move our brigade forward.’
Lisa was also involved in Springboard’s FutureChef, an industry-backed resource aimed at inspiring young people aged 12 – 16 to cook through classroom activities, demonstrations, competitions and awards. She’s done a lot of charitable works including trekking in India and Ethiopia raising money for charities such as Action Against Hunger.
She has also taken on apprentices from The Clink Restaurants, a charity that allows offenders to learn, engage with the public and take their first steps towards building a new life.
‘I had a woman who came to work for us from The Clink, she was fantastic,’ said Lisa. ‘She had a great work ethic and was always here, ready and willing to learn. She did a great job and she really wanted it.
‘Going on the charity treks was a real eye opener for me. It changes you when you experience and see things like that. I’m very honoured to have been able to do something to raise money to help.’
Her sights are set on the future now and she wants to grow the Northcote brand, based on the strong foundations built by Nigel.
‘I’m an ambitious, creative person and I like to push myself and strive to achieve new goals,’ said Lisa. ‘And I want to keep growing as a person.
‘It’s very exciting times. I know I have a big responsibility and it’s going to be a fantastic challenge.’