Steve Poyner, head chef of Cary Arms in Torquay, on his culinary inspiration

What is your earliest food memory? 

One of my earliest memories was on a rainy day, at home, baking with my mother - and eating the cake batter! Who doesn’t remember this as a young child? I just love the smell of cakes being baked. Everything stemmed from then onwards, I just kept trying new dishes and realised at a young age that I really liked to cook and could make a living from doing something that I really enjoyed.

How would you describe your approach to food?

I love to work with fresh ingredients and experiment with different flavors. I love to prepare traditional classic dishes, nothing too fancy just some “good honest food” cooked with passion and adding my own style to the dishes. Everything about food is just awesome!

Who's your food hero, a chef who's inspired you?

Everyone in hospitality admires some great and famous chefs, but the one who really inspired me was a Kenyan chef named David Gichunge. Dave had so much passion, dedication, attention to detail, all complemented by a great work ethic - it was a real eye opener. He also had a fabulous sense of humor! It kick-started my passion for food and ambition for cooking, in terms of creating and experimenting.

A memorable cooking experience? 

Cooking for Maggie Smith has to be one of the highlights of my career. She was filming near Oxford and I was working at the Old Swan and Minster Mill at the time. She checked into the hotel and asked for room service. We were short of staff in the restaurant, and I didn’t want the food to go cold, so I delivered the dinner myself. When she opened door, I realised it was Maggie Smith standing there! It was so unexpected to see someone so well respected in the film industry - and I had just cooked for her. She dined with us the two consecutive nights and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Your favourite dish on the current menu? 

I don’t really have any favourites. I just love food, experimenting with it and adding my own stamp on dishes. I’ve always enjoyed using fresh quality seasonal produce to create dishes that people love.

A favourite dining out spot in Devon?

There’s a lot of amazing dining venues. All exude charm and character but a “must go” for me is The Old Vienna. Werner the chef/owner has created a relaxed dining experience with a traditional Austrian vibe. He serves top-quality food which will leave you with a full tummy and a beaming smile.

What do you love most about Devon?  

The views, the sea, the fields… we really have it all. From Dartmoor to a coastal boat trip, there are so many things to see and explore. I never truly appreciated what it had to offer until I moved back. I realise how lucky I am to live here.

A down-time/go-to meal you like to cook/eat at home? 

Downtime is always about family time and, when possible, I love to drive and work on my Land Rovers. The go-to meal is tricky being so busy, but when I do have the time, my other half normally wants me to make sausage and mash with red onion jus, or a risotto - or we will just get a takeaway!