Food for thought from our Head Chef, the aptly-named John Cook
We’re a very close-knit team here at Oscars and we’re all highly passionate about our service and our food.
We would like to use our blog to take you behind the kitchen doors and show you what makes us tick. And who better to start with than our Head Chef, John Cook.
John is a former Junior Welsh chef of the year finalist and has certainly made his mark in the culinary field. John opened his first restaurant, Oscars of Cowbridge at the age of just 22, the success of which led to the opening of Oscars of Cardiff in 2010.
His creativity and culinary excellence has inspired an international menu that we are proud to offer at Oscars. So let’s find out a bit more about the man whose culinary creations keep customers coming back time and time again.
So John, what first attracted you to cooking as a career?
I always knew that I wanted to become a chef. I was originally inspired by my Grandmother who cooked for the Royal Family. Since then, I’ve never wanted to do anything else!
Where did you train?
I trained at Bridgend College and after completing my training, I decided that I wanted to get some hands-on experience working in a kitchen so I made the decision to pursue a full time career. Fortunately, I was given an opportunity to join the Coed-y-Mwstwr Hotel in Coychurch. During my time there, I received extensive on the job training and very quickly worked my way up in the team to Sous Chef. I worked very closely with the head chef in achieving two AA rosettes for food, which was very rewarding.
What is your proudest moment?
Without a doubt, my most recent triumph to date was coming second to celebrity chef, Martin Blunos at a charity dinner auction at the Cardiff Story Museum. The night was absolutely fantastic and I was thrilled with the result! Making it as a finalist for Junior Welsh chef of the year wasn’t too bad either.
What gives you job satisfaction?
I pride myself on my ability to create new dishes and menus for our customers while also playing a huge part in the recruitment and training of our team of chefs at both Oscars of Cardiff and Oscars of Cowbridge. Training my team in new methods and styles of cooking and having a full restaurant every evening as a result of our fantastic food and service is why I love my career.
Another influence of course is the customers. Knowing what customers want is what gives Oscars its edge. Listening and understanding customers enables us to provide what they want as well as adding our own twist on new dishes – everybody’s a winner!
What would you consider your signature dish?
It has to be my sea salt chilli duck with toasted sesame and sticky barbecue sauce which has always been a favourite on our menus. It was removed from the menu last year but we had to swiftly put it back on as we had so many requests for it. I haven’t taken it off the menu since!
How do you feel about cooking when you get some rare time off?
I absolutely love cooking at home especially when my 4 year old daughter lends me a hand. This works really well to introduce her to new flavours and textures so it’s great for both of us! One of my favourite home-cooked meals is good old -fashioned spaghetti bolognaise. I also make some pretty good frittatas.
One last question – what’s your favourite quick snack to rustle up at home?
For a very healthy and tasty snack which takes just 2 minutes to prepare, get some spicy turkey and white beans, add to pita breads and add some guacamole and salsa. Delicious!
Oscars of Cardiff is located in the heart of Canton/Pontcanna. Opening times are Tuesday – Saturday Midday – 11pm and Midday – 6pm on Sundays.