You’d think that two Michelin stars, an MBE and regular appearances on prime-time television might give a chef a bit of an ego. But Michael Caines is unfazed and down-to-earth, running his kitchen with cool control. After starting his food career at Exeter Catering College in 1985, he spent a year at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, refining his skills under Raymond Blanc and the late Bernard Loiseau – his culinary heroes. In 2006, he took part in BBC Two’s Great British Menu and cooked for the Queen’s 80th birthday, and in 2007 was voted the AA’s Chefs’ Chef of the Year. Today he is Head Chef at the award-winning five-star Gidleigh Park restaurant and has created a range of prepared dishes for Harrods.
When did you decide you wanted to be a chef?
When I was young, I’d always help bake cakes and make Sunday lunch. But I didn’t realise food could be a profession until I was 16, and since then I haven’t looked back.
What do you love about the job?
I enjoy the excitement of cooking, and the fact that you are your own creative force. I also like the variety of skills: managing a business; directing a company; TV and writing work.
Tell us about the food you specialise in.
Our food at Gidleigh Park is pretty seasonal; we specialise in all things local and we try to do that in a creative way. My food is a contemporary take on classic French cuisine, but with flavours and cooking styles from all over the world.
What can people expect from your dishes at Harrods?
Some of them – the fish cake, the terrine of chicken marinated in truffle and lobster salad – are from my new book Michael Caines at Home. We’ve worked with the Harrods team so people can recreate something special at home.
What is the biggest misconception about Michelin-starred chefs
That they are egotistically driven. Many chefs work hard to do their best, and Michelin credits them for their efforts. We don’t set out to court Michelin. It’s more important to create a restaurant that people like and enjoy.
What would your desert island dish be?
Maybe a roast chicken, or a lovely lobster salad with garlic mayonnaise.
Available from Food Halls, Ground Floor
Chilli and ginger crab cakes served with Thai red pepper and
coconut sauce and Thai salad
For the crab cakes
100ml olive oil
50g onions, finely chopped
100g red pepper, peeled and finely diced
50g lemongrass, finely grated
30g ginger, finely grated
30g garlic, finely chopped
210g white crabmeat
420g firm mashed potato
10g red chillies, de-seeded and finely chopped
40g fresh coriander, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
5 eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
1 Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the onions, red peppers, lemongrass, ginger and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes until soft, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, place the cooked ingredients in a bowl.
2 Squeeze the crabmeat to get rid of any excess water and add to the bowl together with the mashed potato, chillies and coriander. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well.
3 Mould the mixture into 6 cakes and place in the fridge to firm up for about an hour.
4 Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Take the crab cakes out of the fridge and dip them first into a bowl of flour, then into beaten egg and finally into breadcrumbs, shaking off any excess.
5 Shallow fry the crab cakes in vegetable oil until golden-brown on both sides. Place them in the oven for 6 minutes and keep warm until ready to serve.
For the Thai red pepper and coconut sauce
5g lemongrass, finely chopped
30ml olive oil
50g onions, chopped
1 tbsp garlic pesto
1 tbsp ginger pesto
8g red chillies, chopped
5g fresh coriander, chopped
200ml coconut milk
150g roasted red peppers, chopped
Juice of half a lime
1 Heat the chopped lemongrass in a pan with the olive oil, then add the onions, garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander.
2 Add the coconut milk and red peppers, and bring the mixture to the boil.
3 Remove from the heat, place the mixture in a blender and blend until smooth, and then pass through a sieve.
4 Season the sauce as required with salt, pepper and lime juice, and reserve until needed. The sauce can be kept in the fridge for up to five days.
For the Thai salad
100g rocket leaves
100g baby spinach leaves
1 small chilli, sliced thinly
½ bunch (15g) fresh mint leaves
½ bunch (15g) fresh coriander leaves
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 Place the rocket and spinach leaves, sliced chilli, mint and coriander leaves in a bowl.
2 Mix the fish sauce, lime juice and groundnut oil together to make a dressing and pour over the salad leaves.
To serve: place the salad in the centre of the plate, add the crab cakes on top and spoon the Thai red pepper and coconut sauce over them and around the plate, or on the side.