Born and raised in rural Cumbria, Chef Kevin Tickle’s success has been underpinned by his intimate knowledge and love of the local landscape, where he spent his early years exploring, hunting, foraging and fishing. Following time working in Michelin starred restaurants such as Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume, Kevin and his wife Nicola bought and revitalised a 17th century inn in Newton-in- Cartmel during the pandemic in 2021. Just two years later this March, their pub and restaurant with rooms called Heft received its first Michelin star. We caught up with Kevin to discuss his whirlwind last few years and plans for the future.

When and how did your passion for food and cooking begin?

It started very young for me. I had a part-time job as a pot wash in a local pub in Foxfield when I was at school. I loved it from my very first shift.

What were the key steps in your development and career?

My first major step was deciding to take it seriously and then applying for a trainee chef position through English Lakes Hotels, which basically allowed me to work a full-time apprenticeship alongside a day release to attend Kendal College’s Culinary School to train.

Do you have any mentors?

I’ve a good handful and each of them in their own way has been crucial, playing a significant part in my personal development throughout my career.

Describe your cooking style?

Fancy but not fancy at the same time if that makes sense… Basically I’m cooking from my heart now.

How do you create new dishes?

I look at the seasons and the availability of ingredients in each of them, and really try to stay ahead with planning, mainly because some things are in and out of season before you even get the dish right.

What would you say to a 16-year-old starting out in a kitchen?

You’re going to make a lot of mistakes, more than likely on a daily basis, and that’s absolutely fine, you will learn from each of them.

What are your next goals and targets on a work level?

The next biggie for us is the completion of the bedrooms and development of the rear beer garden.

Any tips to deal with the challenge of rising costs this past 12 months?

In all honesty it’s becoming nearly impossible to deliver, the difference between charging what we need to and what customers are prepared to pay is getting closer and closer. The cheaper cuts are no longer cheap! All we can do is work smart and adapt to it.

Tell us about your current role and the food?

My current role is anything that needs doing basically. Obviously my primary position in the company is to oversee the kitchen and restaurant but there is so much more to it than just that. Food wise we have four menu styles (five if you include pizza, pie, kebab and burger nights), which we run over the week ranging from bar snacks to 12 course tasting menus. All of them come from the heart, you can tell it’s my cooking whether you’re in the restaurant or sat on a bench outside in the sun eating a pasty.

Three tips vital for success in a professional kitchen

Work hard, be a team player, learn, as much as you can.

Why do you think there are so many great chefs in the Lakes?

It’s a nice place to be. Plus why wouldn’t you want to live and work in such an amazing place with so many incredible suppliers right on your doorstep.

Four dinner party guests dead or alive that you would love to cook for?

Cooking dinner for Peter Kay, Steve Coogan, Justin Moorhouse and Johnny Vegas – we’d have a pint in the bar afterwards and I reckon the banter would be amazing!

What’s the dream for 10 years’ time?

In ten years’ time I’d like to see Heft operating to its full potential, with mine and Nicola’s initial vision in place. From there it would just be minor tweaks here and there to improve it. But realistically It will never be fully finished though as there will always be something to develop and improve.

Can you share a Signature Dish and why it is special to you?

This dish is special because the halloumi is made by local artisan producer and friend, cheesemaker Martin Gott, based at Holker Farm, Cartmel. I have known and worked with Martin for years so it always holds a special place in my heart.