Furloughed for most of last year, he spent the first four months of lockdown in Thailand with his Thai wife Jeeraya, then was forced to come home without her. “It was terrible. I spent every day on my own trying to sort out her visa.”
Happily, she’s now back at his side – when Peter is not yomping over the hills around his home in Silsden, that is.
That is about to change, though. On May 17, the Burlington, the fine dining restaurant in the Devonshire Arms, will reopen and Peter will be busy with his team preparing dinner five nights a week with a menu he describes as “modern British with Asian influences”.
He had been at the hotel for just four months before lockdown, but he comes with an unbeatable CV. Head chef at the Samling in the Lake District, head chef at the Michelin-starred Gidleigh Park, head chef at the Latymer, Pennyhill Park. He worked at Winteringham Fields and for a time he was sous chef to Michael Wignall when he was at the Devonshire Arms.
Peter’s remit in this job is, he says, “one Michelin star and 4 AA rosettes”. That’s a tall order in the face of the inscrutable Michelin inspectors but he’s up for the challenge, being both competitive and ambitious. “I’d always be the fastest cucumber chopper,” he says, adding: “A Michelin star is something to aim for, it’s expected and it’s important for the hotel to be successful.”
What’s the first dish you remember cooking? I got a job in a nursing home. I was so excited, I made gammon, eggs, chips and peas. It was simple but very good.
Who or what is your culinary inspiration? It’s food itself. Travelling to places with different cultures and different food. The chef who has inspired me most is Michael Wignall. I worked alongside him for 10 years. He has an amazing work ethic.
How would you describe your food? I call it modern British with an Asian twist. I’m not stuck on British ingredients and if I think something is better elsewhere, I’ll go for that. I’m constantly on YouTube looking at restaurants in Thailand and Japan.
Where do you like to eat out? Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume and Gareth Ward’s Ynyshir in Wales, where we had about 25 courses.
Do you have a favourite dish? Thai larb moo – pork mince, sticky rice, chillies, mint, fish sauce and Thai shallots. It’s delicious.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? The American chef Anthony Bourdain, just me and him. Not just because of his food, but also because he was interesting and so well read.
What utensil could you not manage without? My lifter, my 26-year-old spatula. It’s just plastic and stainless steel but it has a thin handle and it’s light. I use it a hell of a lot. When it goes, I won’t be able to get another one – they all have thick handles now.
What is happening at the Devonshire when you reopen? We’re very lucky, the management has spent a lot of money during lockdown. Beside the Burlington, there is a new Seafood and Champagne bar on the terrace and the under-used tennis court has been taken over by the Spa.
You can have your massage and then they’ll bring you a picnic in a bell tent that’s yours for the day.