Today we talk with Chef Paul Maguire of The Culver Haven Inn, Sandown….
- So let’s start off with you telling me a little bit about The Culver Haven Inn…
To be honest I didn’t know a whole lot about it when I first started here, I just thought it was a quiet country pub, since working here though I soon realised that it actually isn’t just a quiet country pub, it’s actually a really busy country pub. I don’t know much about the history of the place, I used to deliver here when I worked for Medina Foods and loved the area… you can see so much of the Island from up here, the views are just amazing! We get people coming in here not only for the food but for the views while they sit too. We are very lucky to have such a great spot on the Island with the pub, there is plenty of parking all around and lots of walks, plus there is the monument as well. We always have the dog walkers coming in after a nice walk for a cup of coffee and some lunch with their dogs which is nice too. We cook your traditional pub foods, trying to use as many local ingredients as we can, food such as such as Isle of Wight burgers and Isle of Wight steaks, pies are a nice speciality which we make in house and we try and do a lot of fish dishes because obviously we are overlooking the sea. We cook quite simple pub food, there is only two of us in the kitchen so we like to keep it nice, simple and fresh but full of taste and we don’t want to keep people waiting for a long time for their meals either….. so long as people keep enjoying the food and keep coming back we will keep cooking it the way we do, that the theory anyway haha.
- Obviously you are cooking every day, so when you aren’t working here serving up delicious home cooked pub meals, where is your favourite place to eat out on the island?
When I go out I tend to go with my nipper (for all you non-island residents out there….. that’s island talk for son) so I probably don’t necessarily go there purely for the food but rather if there is a ball pit or a play area for him so it would have to be somewhere like The Chequers of The Caulkheads or somewhere like that. But if I were to go out for a family meal or something I would probably go somewhere like The Taveners of The Essex of some place like that, somewhere you know is a little more upmarket from just everyday pub grub, not fine dining because it isn’t but it’s just you know you’re going to get a little nicer food than your everyday pub food.
- What would you say was your favourite sin food?
Well I don’t exactly have a sin food, I don’t really ever think ‘I shouldn’t eat that’ but I like meat so it would have to be a steak or a pie or something along those lines. I’m not really one of these people who would ever sit and eat a salad, it’s really just not me, so I would have to say a steak. I’m not a fussy chef though so sometimes I might have a sauce with like a peppercorn sauce or something but generally I’ll just have it plain, tomato sauce on the chips though obviously!!!
- Do you have a favourite food that you consider to be healthy?
I don’t know, I like chicken caesar salads, I probably wouldn’t order one though haha, I always eat a banana for breakfast so that’s healthy…. I choose that!
- What is the strangest thing that you have ever eaten?
That would probably have to be when I was in Egypt and I can’t remember what they called it now but it was a kind of stew with baby fish heads……. I don’t know what the fish was but it looked really nice. Obviously I had no idea what it was because on the labels it was all in Egyptian so I just put some on my plate and it was until later on that I was told that it was a broth type stew of fish heads and other fish meat. But yes, it was delicious, it had all been boiled for ages and was all really soft so I really enjoyed it and ate it all.
- So what is the most eventful meal you have ever prepared?
Luckily we don’t really get much of that up her at the Culver Haven, you get the obvious changes of things on the menu but I haven’t had anything eventful people are generally pretty good, we are quite lucky I guess…..
- So when you get home, are you fed up of cooking or do you cook at home as well?
I live with my mum at the moment and she is retired so she will get stuff ready, sometime I will cook if she is out but generally she will do the cooking as she is cooking for herself anyway so always puts me up a plate. She cooks things like lasagne, chilli and cauliflower cheese that sort of thing, there are some things she cooks though that I just will not eat…… she does this pasta dish with mushrooms and herbs and basil and cream cheese and stuff in it that just smells revolting…. She knows I don’t like it…
Well she certainly will do if she didn’t before ……….
If I have my nipper I will cook for us or we will go out and yes OK we might have a sneaky McDonald’s once a week but yes generally my mum does the cooking at home. When I do move out though I will be one of those people who cooks once on my day off and then puts the rest in my freezer so I have a stock of meals ready to heat up another time, like the healthy eaters do.
- As a chef what is the one ingredient at that you could not live without ?
One thing I couldn’t ever live without personally for myself would be cheese, I love cheese, but I think as a chef, the one ingredient you couldn’t live without in the kitchen would be is potatoes because they are so versatile with how you use them. Without them you would lose so many options from all foods, your Sunday roasts wouldn’t be the same, your steaks wouldn’t be the same… they just accompany so many dishes in so many ways that I just don’t think we could really live without them in the kitchen.
- And your most overrated ingredient?
That’s hard, I’m not sure it’s an ingredient but I really don’t like caviar … you don’t really use it often as an ingredient as such but as a stand alone food I think caviar is really overrated it’s all show and no go…..
- So what is the strangest food request you have ever had?
There was one gluten free vegan lasagne…….. It was so odd….. We had to make the sauce with something like soya cream and then the pasta we had to get gluten free pasta and then obviously the vegetables were fine, but it was the most odd request we have ever had…. I made 6 portions and we have only ever sold the two portions to those two people who had specifically requested we made it….. Odd that???!!!
- Was becoming a Chef something you have always wanted to do?
No actually when I was younger I wanted to be a Graphic Designer because that is what my dad did, he designed the wings of planes and Formula One cars etc, I was born in the States as my Mum was visiting my Dad whilst he was working out there so yes I fancied doing that. Unfortunately I wasn’t very good at art, I was OK, but I thought if I can’t even draw, well I can but not brilliantly, so I just thought it’s not really for me and at the time I really enjoyed doing Food Tech at school and I didn’t do brilliantly at my GCSE’s and you didn’t need amazing results to go into the catering course so I did that and it all went from there really. I did my level 2 at College and started my level 3 and my tutor was working in Cowes so I left college and did my level 3 working for my tutor at The Globe in Cowes and at The Shanklin Hotel. Here I am now at The Culver Haven, been here a year yesterday, it’s gone really quickly too. I’m still really enjoying it, the place has a great atmosphere and I love the views.
- Who is the chef that you would say that you most admire?
Gordon Ramsey….not necessarily his cooking shows but the ones where he goes and helps failing businesses. He just seems to know so much about the business and have so much knowledge. Growing up I used to like Jamie Oliver but I have grown out of that one a bit now and then I went onto liking James Martin because of his deserts but yeah, now its Gordon Ramsey not just for his cooking ability but his business head as well
You’ve haven’t died and we didn’t have to hold you hostage to finish so you’ll be glad to hear we have reached the end of the questions. Thank you so much for meeting with me today here at The Culver Haven Inn, Sandown.