Passion is a word that is often mentioned at Goodwood. Everyone who works on the Estate cares deeply about creating unforgettable experiences for the one million people who visit every year. Mike Watts, Head Chef at Goodwood House, is no different.
APR 18th 2018
A Day in The Life of Mike Watts
That Mike is passionate about being a chef is without a doubt: he landed his first job in a kitchen by shaving his head, which forced his then boss to move him from his role as front of house at the Colwall Park Hotel in Great Malvern.
“People often think I became a chef because it was a lifelong ambition. The reality is, I kind of fell into it. I hadn’t done particularly well at school and from the age of 16 had worked in hotels as a waiter. But I had trained in Hospitality and Catering and my friends knew I was OK in the kitchen. They kept asking me why I was carrying plates and not cooking? Once the seed was planted, I knew that is what I wanted to do.”
“The trouble is I didn’t know how to become a chef. I had no credibility, because I was front of house. So, I just shaved my head! My boss took one look at me and said, fine, see if you can hack it in the kitchen. The chefs gave me quite a bit of grief, but I knew the menu well and I did OK.
He certainly did. Fast forward a few years, following stints at Rhinefield House Hotel and Chewton Glen in the New Forest, and he’s running a team of chefs at Goodwood House, creating unique dishes for weddings, banquets and balls. It sounds like a cliché, but no day is the same at Goodwood and that is what Mike loves about his job, especially when he’s catering for the Festival of Speed or Revival balls.
“Being at the centre of the big events is phenomenal. I love the build-up, the creativity behind designing the dishes, the excitement of the night itself. We can sometimes be catering for 1600 people. There are 24 chefs, over 100 waiting staff. But what is really inspiring is the fact that the Duke takes such a personal interest in what we are doing. He wants to know about every single detail. His passion makes all of us want to deliver an incredible event.”
Weddings at Goodwood House are just as special, says Mike. He sits down with the couple to create a bespoke menu that is personal to them. He always tells people to see the House as a blank canvas, despite its grandeur. “You really can create anything you like within the confines of a stately home. It doesn’t have to be formal or stuffy.”
From the moment the couple see the venue to the big day itself, it is Goodwood staff that ensure every single detail is perfect along the way. Even the food is Goodwood-grown. “We will solely focus on you: from the planning, to the prepping, to the cooking – it is the same team throughout. We are so used to doing the big events, nothing really is too difficult for us,” says Mike.
Certainly nothing seems to faze this talented young chef. And he’s thankfully ditched the shaven-head look, too.