Flash-grilled: Wesley Smalley

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Wesley Smalley chef owner of Seasonality restaurant in Maidenhead on starting in kitchens at 16

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The chef owner of Seasonality restaurant in Maidenhead on memories of his mother's cooking, starting in kitchens at 16, and his signature dish.

What was your first industry job?
Kitchen Porter/trainee chef at Hadleigh’s Brasserie in Sunningdale when I was 16. I was living in the Royal Military at Sandhurst as my dad was in the army and I was supposed to follow my dad and older brother into an army career, but I was medically discharged at a young age. I’d always been keen to learn more about food so here it began. 

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I don’t think I have any other skills! I loved playing sports as a kid and I also loved travelling around Australia and Southeast Asia when I was in my early 20s, where I worked in kitchens to help fund my travels - perhaps a travel/food writer.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Anthony Bourdain, the way he romanticised food and always championed the every day cook.

What’s your pet hate in the kitchen?
Chefs who leave spoons in containers and put the lid back on – it’s very annoying.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
We have a small kitchen counter for two and someone told me they were going to critique me like they were Gordan Ramsey.

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Dishes that aim to give you layers of flavour from sweet to salt, sour and spice.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
I can’t think of one personally, however I remember when I was younger and worked for a well-known chef and we had Marina O’Loughlin in on opening night when she worked for Metro​ at the time, let’s just say reading that review on the way to work on the bus wasn’t pleasant.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Surround yourselves with an experienced chef, take on as much information as you can to follow the path that’s right for you.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My Victorinox serrated pastry knife.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Steak tartare.

À la carte or tasting menu?
A tough one, depends on the restaurant.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
I went to Paul Bocuse in Lyon at the start of my career, the opulence and attention to detail was amazing, recently we ate at Azumendi in northern Spain which blew my mind.

What’s your favourite fast-food joint?

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Steak tartare.

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
They both have their own place in my opinion but if I had to choose, I think MasterChef​ because I think it’s attracted more people to the industry over the years.

What’s the most overrated food?
Lobster – give me crab any day of the week.

You’re restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Price supplements on menus.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
Keith Floyd, Michael Palin, and Winston Churchill.

What’s your earliest food memory?
My mum used to make a pie which had sausage meat and baked beans in it - I’d still make it today if I thought my kids would eat it.

Twitter or Instagram?

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
Escape, travel somewhere to rest and recuperate.

What’s your tipple of choice?
Gin with a touch of tonic.

What’s your favourite food and drink pairing?
We do this delicious cheese soup at the restaurant in the winter months, and we recommend a glass of real ale with it.

What do you consider to be your signature dish?
Potato and truffle fondant, foie gras and Vacherin Mont D’or.

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