Top 50 Boutique Hotels

Get to know Matthew Haggath, Head Chef, Idle Rocks

What makes this head chef tick and why did he get into cooking?

By Charli Tomney | 23/05/2023

Years working at The Idle Rocks: 2 ½ Years

Key cooking style and influences: A prefer unpretentious, flavour driven dishes. It is important to present your food in an attractive way; but for me it’s all about maximising the taste. The presentation lasts a few seconds, but the memory of a great tasting meal will last a lot longer.

Accolades: Within the last year we have received South West Restaurant Of The Year and Cornish Restaurant Of The Year.

What got you into cooking?

I never really considered being a chef until my early 20’s, though I had been in part time jobs as a pot wash from 16. I remember watching Gordon Ramsay’s the F Word and being drawn towards the hectic but somehow organised madness of an operating kitchen. So it wasn’t really the food to begin with that inspired me, it was the environment and once I was in, I was hooked.

What do you enjoy most about your industry?

For me the best thing is leading a team who enjoy their work, take pride in what they do, and continue to grow month on month. I feel there are few places like a kitchen. It does not matter where you are from, your age, your gender or anything else. If you can do the job and contribute to the success, you are welcomed with open arms. It is that acceptance and camaraderie which makes me proud to be part of the industry.

Biggest achievement to date?

Becoming Head Chef of the Idle Rocks has to be my biggest achievement so far. It is a great hotel and I am extremely proud to be here. On personal level, I moved to France without a job or accommodation. I just hopped on a plane and tried to make a success of it. I ended up staying for 2 years and was one of the best decisions I ever made. Highly recommend it.

What makes dining at The Idle Rocks so special?

I have been fortunate to work in many fine restaurants and I think what sets The Idle Rocks apart is we serve high quality food, but without the formality and stuffiness of perhaps some other hotels/restaurants. We really go for that relaxed, chilled out by the waterside vibe and this is reflected in the unpretentiousness of the food and the subtle but high standard of service the FOH team deliver.

What advice would you give to an aspiring chef? 

I would say, don’t worry about titles and don’t worry about how much you are being paid. Quality, reliable chefs with strong background knowledge are hard to come by these days. Spend your 20’s learning as must as possible, see as much as possible. Then by the time you reach your 30’s; there will be so many doors open to you and all that hard work will pay off big time. 

Where’s your favourite place to eat in the UK?

Fallow in London. Fantastic small plates and a great atmosphere; cannot resist going if I’m up that way.

What is your favourite cuisine to cook?

I will always try my hand at anything. But based on my training and my years in Bordeaux, it’s got to be French.

Least favourite ingredient?

Blue cheese. I just don’t get it. 

What’s your favourite dish on the current menu?

We currently have a roasted monkfish with black garlic, curried cous cous, wild mushrooms and Maitake puree. It’s a fish dish, but due to the meaty flesh of the monkfish and the umami flavour of the mushrooms sautéed in soy, it almost blurs the lines between meat and fish.

Who’s your biggest influence?

When I was starting out, I used to buy as many cookbooks as I could get my hands on. White Heat by Marco Pierre White for example always used to fire my enthusiasm. The dishes are of course decades out of date, but the kitchen life and atmosphere it presents is very special. I always admired Gordon Ramsay’s work ethic and passion. And that drove me to seek out working for his company in London and again in France.

What’s your signature cooking style?

Clean, unfussy cooking with the emphasis on flavour. If it doesn’t add flavour to the dish, don’t put it on there. I’m also a sucker for the old school. I’ll take pots and pans over a water bath any day.