Chef Profile: Stacey Sparkes from The Lodge at Duxford
From the moment he walked into a professional kitchen - as a pot washer, aged 13 - Stacey Sparkes knew he wanted to be a chef. Now helming the kitchen at The Lodge, the newly revamped hotel in Duxford, he shares his story with Alice Ryan
Let’s start at the beginning: did you grow up in a foodie house? Tell us about your earliest memories of food and cooking.
As a family we are all keen on cooking and food on the whole. We always had home-cooked food and I have plenty of fond memories of helping my grandmother with the puddings. Her bread and butter pudding has never been rivalled.
What made you want to pursue a career as a chef?
As a kid I had four paper rounds a week. When my parents moved us out to Horningsea, with no paper rounds, I missed the pocket money so got a job at the local pub as a pot wash - and the passion grew from there.
Tell us about the first pro kitchen you cooked in. Was the famous ‘baptism of fire’?
I was 13 when I became a pot wash in the local pub, and instantly fell in love with the mania of it all. The food was beautiful and the head chef, Adrian Mason, was like a god to me! I wanted to be just like him, and now that I’ve lost my hair, I kind of am.
Give us the highlights of your career to date. Can you share a stand-out memory?
Putting together this kitchen and assembling this team has been a real highlight for me. A challenge, yes, but a rewarding one.
Whatbrought you to The Lodge?
The vision of the owners really. The challenge of starting from scratch and bringing my personality and creativeness to a relic, reborn.
The venue has just reopened after an amazing renovation, hasn't it? What's changed?
It really has. If only you’d seen it when I started - a bomb site! It’s now a beautiful building with a creative twist. The art work is quirky and it has a real home-from-home feeling. I think you’d best check it out for yourself really.
How would you describe The Lodge's culinary style?
Modern British, seasonal and well balanced.
We're guessing locally sourced ingredients are important to you. Tell us a bit about your suppliers?
I keep in regular contact with our suppliers to make sure that what we are getting is at its best. All of our suppliers are within 30 miles from us and I’ve taken all of my team to meet them and get an understanding of the operations.
If our readers haven’t eaten at the hotel before, what should they order?
Obviously I’m going to say everything, but in all honesty there really is something for everyone. We have regular tastings to make sure what we are producing is banging. The duck, celeriac, and Pink Lady apple dish is a hot favourite with our diners though.
Within the culinary world, who inspires you?
All the chefs that I’ve worked with have inspired me one way or another. I’ve always followed Marco Pierre White to the point of obsession, but mypresent team inspire me daily and likewise I hope I inspire them.
What’s the most memorable meal or dish you’ve eaten?
There are so many. . . I suppose the most memorable meals are those enjoyed around the table with family. We spent a lot of time in Spain growing up and the tapas bars always leave a memory. Family, food and wine - heaven!
Which three ingredients could you not cook without?
Onions, salt and garlic.
We know you’re passionate about your work. What’s the reward of being a chef, for you?
Doing a job that is both a passion and a hobby is quite rare, so that’s it. I love my work and it’s a pleasure to share that love with guests.
Do you have any guilty food pleasures to confess?
I’m a sucker for a Domino’s pizza! Load it up with pepperoni and cheese and I’m good. Shame on me!
The Lodge is at Ickleton Road, Duxford CB22 4RT. Call (01223) 755677, visit
Thelodgeduxford.com and follow @thelodgeduxford on Facebook and Instagram.
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