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Meet the chef: Dan Fincher, The Machine Inn, Ashbourne

Dan Fincher Photo: Henfox Ltd
Dan Fincher Photo: Henfox Ltd

Dan is the 38-yeear-old group executive chef, overseeing all of the kitchen operations at Henfox Ltd, including new opening, The Machine Inn in Ashbourne. He also mentors the kitchen team to create a strong focus on creativity, consistency and a positive guest experience across our venues. ‘

This often goes past cooking, into areas such as menu planning, budgeting and staff management,’ he says. ‘I collaborate with other departments and the directors of the company to create a vision of what we as a group want to achieve.’

Here Ian shares his food loves.

Tell us a little about the Machine Inn.

The Machine Inn is a relaxed dining venue with around 30 covers, based in the centre of Ashbourne. What we aim to achieve is a high standard of classical dishes that rely on what is available to us locally and seasonally. The food approach is very simplistic, with a large emphasis on cooking techniques and flavour.

First dish you learned to cook?

Probably something that school had me doing like a pasta bake or a sponge! Professionally, it'll have been chicken liver parfait, I remember getting that job all the time when I first started out.

Most vivid childhood food memory?

I remember eating a lot as a family, sitting around a table before mobile phones were much of a thing and just having everyone together talking and enjoying time together.

Most memorable meal out?

The Ledbury when I was in London, I remember everything they did was absolutely fantastic.

Favourite ingredient?

Either salt, butter or lemon juice - I can't decide!

Your go-to snack?

Pasta, it's quick to make and you can do a lot with it.

If you weren't a chef, what would you be?

I've never really thought about it to be honest, I don't think I'd be much good at anything else and I enjoy what I do.

Your dream dinner guest?

Anthony Bourdain, I liked his passion for food and travel and think that he had a unique ability to connect with people. I think having a meal with him would be great to hear about his experiences and the knowledge of food he had.

What's your guilty food pleasure?

I'd have to say a KFC, I have always enjoyed a guilty meal from there but I hardly ever get the chance to go now.

Who are your Derbyshire food heroes?

I don't really have any, I just focus on what I'm doing and try and do it well. That being said, probably the staff I have at the minute, they're all amazing.

A food industry person who inspires?

Massimo Bottura. Aside from the fact his food is on another level, I like the way he tries to use food as a means for social change through non-profit organisations he is a part of and the social inclusion community kitchens he runs.

A place you love to eat?

The Royal Crescent in Bath, I love the location and the food is always great.

A career highlight?

Seeing chefs I've worked with leave and go and do good things themselves, it's always nice to feel you've played a part in helping someone go on to bigger things.

What's next for you and the Machine Inn?

To continue building the reputation and improving the food concepts throughout all the venues I play a part in.

My favourite dish

Maybe I'm biased, but a particular favourite of mine at the moment is our beetroot, blue cheese and walnut salad finished with a pickled walnut dressing,’ says Ian. ‘It’s currently on our starters menu at the Machine Inn.’

Great British Life: Beetroot, blue cheese and walnut salad Photo: Henfox LtdBeetroot, blue cheese and walnut salad Photo: Henfox Ltd


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