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Meet the Chef: an interview with new Head Chef, Sean Ducie

6 July 2020

Sean Ducie joined the College last month as our Head Chef. He has 25 years’ experience of working in kitchens, most recently as Head Chef at a well-established events catering company in Oxford. He trained at the Lakeside Hotel in Windermere and became Head Chef of the Lamb Inn, Burford, at the age of just 23. Since then, he has worked at a number of prestigious hotels, including The Randolph in Oxford.

With the College (and its kitchens) still closed, we wanted to introduce Sean virtually to the Queen’s community, via this interview.

What attracted you to the role at Queen’s?

The chance to be part of a supportive, close-knit team within such a prestigious establishment was too good an opportunity to miss. There are endless opportunities to learn and develop myself professionally and also pass on my knowledge to the kitchen team. The change of direction and emphasis on sustainably and ethical practices was also a huge draw.

It’s clearly a very strange time to be starting a new job, with the kitchens likely to be closed for quite a bit longer. What are you able to do, in terms of work, at the moment?

Extremely strange, but it’s fantastic to be joining the team at Queens. I’ve been welcomed in and really feel part of the team already without actually meeting anybody face to face! I’ve been busy getting used to the University system, completing my virtual induction, working on new menus and studying the COVID-19 guidance and literature on how to restart and set up in a social-distanced kitchen and working in the new norm!

What plans do you have in your new role?

I suppose plans have changed quite drastically since I was appointed, so the first big job is getting the kitchen back up and running with the correct working procedures in place to make sure everyone is safe. I like to write my menus to reflect the seasons and try to use local suppliers where possible, introducing more plant-based food to help promote a more ethical and sustainable approach to our cooking.

How would describe your style of cooking, and who or what has influenced that?

I started cooking with my mum at quite a young age which I really loved, and I had a real passion for it! I knew then that I wanted to pursue cooking as my career. I’m always striving to learn and push myself and my team with everything we do. Inspiration comes from talented chefs old and new within the industry and also current food trends. Working closely with suppliers is very important. It enables you to see what ingredients are at their peak in the season and to be aware of new, wonderful ingredients coming through to be able to introduce them into my cooking. I suppose my style is to use ingredients when they are at their best within the season and to apply different cooking techniques and complimenting flavours and textures to create well-balanced, enjoyable food.

Which other chefs do you most admire?

I love chefs like Simon Rogan and Mark Birchall who grow a lot of their own produce, connecting nature and food whilst cooking to such a high standard. I’m also a big fan of the Scandinavian style of cooking and eating from the land so I really like chefs like Rene Redzepi and Magnus Nilsson.

What’s your favourite type of cuisine?

I’m a passionate foodie and love lots of different cuisines. When cooking I like taking humble ingredients and cooking and combining in a way that creates bold delicious food.

What would you choose as your last meal?

It would have to be The Sunday Roast! Perfectly cooked roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, lots of veggies and gravy. With apple crumble and custard for dessert.

Where are your favourite places to eat when you go out?

I really enjoy what Oxford has to offer and had the most amazing meal at The Oxford Kitchen last year. Out of the city there are some amazing places to eat, I think we are very lucky to have such a good food scene in the county.

Is there anything that you don’t like to cook or doesn’t turn out right for you?

I love cooking everything! Obviously recipes/ dishes sometimes don’t come out quite right and recipes need tweaking or sometimes they turn out better and actually you modify the recipe and carry on doing it that way; it’s all part of the cooking process and that’s what makes it fun.

Have you managed to pass on your enthusiasm for cooking to your sons?

My boys love cooking and I’m very thankful for that! They are always open to trying new foods and love getting involved in the cooking, always asking questions and wanting to try the food to make sure it’s correct. They love eating out and family dinners around the table. Enjoying food together is one of our favourite things to do as a family.