We sat down with Ashleigh to find out a little more about why eating at The Kingham Plough is so special.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, including where you are today, professionally, and what got you here?
I am the Head Chef at The Kingham Plough. I started my career at Ellenborough Park whilst doing my GCSEs and A Levels. I later went full time and completed Level 2&3 NVQs in professional cookery with HIT. I’ve loved food and cooking for as long as I can remember, and it’s something I knew I wanted to pursue as a career.
After Ellenborough Park, I spent time improving my knowledge, skills and supplier relationships around the Cotswolds and worked at Slaughters Country Inn and then was part of the team that re-opened the Frog Mill at Andoversford.
I then started at The Kingham Plough as sous chef in 2019, taking over as head chef when the former chef left. This is my first head chef position and I’m grateful to owners, Matt and Katie Beamish for giving me the opportunity and supporting me throughout.
Throughout my career and particularly now more than ever, I’ve noticed the industry has started to struggle to find staff. I believe chefs have a responsibility to reach out and inspire students and why I work closely with The Chefs Forum and support apprenticeships. After completing two myself I knew it was avenue I would continue to support.
What’s your signature dish?
Sichuan pork belly bites! It’s become a staple on the Plough’s menu – sweet, spicy and sticky – what more could you want!
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
Our produce and seasonality. We work with a fantastic list of local suppliers including Four Seasons, Paddock Farm, Cacklebean Eggs, Otis & Belle and New Wave. I particularly like to work with them when they say they have some fantastic figs or tomatoes. Their top-quality ingredients aIways provide inspiration for creating new dishes.
How would you describe your cooking style?
I’ve trained under many chefs, so my cooking style is influenced from across the world, but I like to stay close to home for most of the menu.
Do you have a favourite time of year or ingredients that you look forward to working with?
I love Autumn. As the temperature starts to drop, it’s the beginning of game season and there’s still berries and apples and a whole lot of vegetables, cauliflower, pumpkin, radish, mushrooms available.
We have a good relationship with the local gamekeeper, so we always have a great selection of meats for our ever-changing menu.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Vinegars. They balance a dish perfectly and give a lift at the end.
What’s your favourite piece of kitchen equipment?
A food processor. It’s very versatile and saves us a lot of time in the kitchen when preparing large batches.
Where’s your favorite place to dine?
Digbeth Dining Club. They bring together the best independent street food vendors from across the UK to their venues across the Midlands. They’re a great place to spend the evening, and they usually rotate venders, so you get a good mix every time you go. My favourite from my last visit was Beef on the Block. I like to try new cuisines to widen my knowledge and get inspiration for my own menu whilst supporting new and small businesses. You never stop learning and sharing in this job.
What do you think is the most overhyped food trend?
Avocado on toast. It’s had its time to shine, I think we can all work towards a new style of brunch dishes.
How would you describe the food you create to somebody who’s never experienced your kind of food?
Comforting, I’d like to think that my team and I create food that people want to eat. We’re a
gastro pub at the end of the day, so we always have pub classics on the menu, with additional à
la carte dishes for those who want to try something new and more innovative.
How do you go about menu planning?
I like to sit down with my team and start by looking at what’s coming into season. If anyone has had any ideas that they’d like to try out, we start from there. Our menu is broken down into parts (nibbles, starters, classics, mains and desserts). Within this we try to make sure it’s balanced by having an equal amount of vegetarian, fish, and meat dishes available, as well as being inclusive for dietary requirements. Everyone should be able to come out and enjoy a meal.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food?
Freshly baked warm cookies – with a bucket of ice cream!
The Kingham Plough, Kingham Green, Oxfordshire, OX7 6YD
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