From the Ribble Valley to your TV screens, we meet the Northern powerhouse that is Northcote's Lisa Goodwin-Allen
October 11th, 2022
Lancashire lass and superstar chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen has been casting her culinary magic over Northcote Manor since the age of 20. Named head chef at the tender age of 23, one of the youngest chefs to take on the role in a Michelin starred kitchen at the time, she has helped maintain the accolade it has held continuously since 1996. Boasting a glittering culinary career from the Ribble Valley to prime-time television, Lisa’s kitchen prowess is hard to beat. We sat down with the famed chef for a chat about all things food, Lancashire, and Nigel Mansell, of course.
So, tell us why you love to cook. At what point did you realise that cooking is your passion?
I fell in love with food during my school years. I was always fascinated by watching my family cook. I struggled at school but enjoyed practical subjects especially Home Economics and found my niche with food. I was very shy as a young girl, cooking was my way of expressing myself and showing my personality.
Every dish on your autumn menu made me smile. There’s something very special about a Michelin-starred menu that retains a homely, northern tilt. Are any of your dishes inspired by your life and upbringing in Lancashire?
Seasonality and locality are extremely important in order to get the best flavours. I like to take traditional dishes and classic flavours and put a modern spin on them. Food conjures amazing memories, whether it’s tasting something that you remember from childhood, or something you ate with your grandparents. I think food just comes with this amazing history. We source the most amazing local produce from very passionate people, so we really want to use that produce in a way that brings the best from it.
You’ve been smashing out dishes at Northcote since you were 23 years old, yet you continue to create innovative seasonal menus several times a year. What keeps that fire burning? How do you keep the ideas fresh and exciting year on year?
I’m very hands-on and I love being creative. I like taking traditional things and stamping my DNA on them. Creating a dish that doesn’t look like an apple pie, but it tastes like an apple pie, that’s really exciting to me. I also want to be able to taste everything that’s on the plate.
Buying seasonally not only ensures great quality; it leads to less wastage. And taking what’s in abundance makes you think outside the box, too. Sometimes it’s wacky and wonderful because you get an ingredient, draw a circle and think, what can that go with it? It can end up completely different to what you had in mind before.
You have the cleanest, calmest kitchen I have ever seen! Was it difficult to source and put together such a beautifully synchronised team?
I’m passionate about developing young talent. We run an apprenticeship scheme, where young chefs are assessed in-house and get to learn on the job. We have three in the kitchen at the moment, they’re with us five days a week. To be an ambassador and bring the next generation through is really important, especially now when the industry is in a time of need. I really believe that if you develop your staff and provide the training they need, the longevity of them staying with you is amazing.
Your team both in and out of the kitchen possess an outstanding knowledge of produce origins and the whys/hows behind each dish. Do you think diners are more inquisitive about the food on their plate nowadays?
Yes absolutely, people want to know where the ingredients on their plate is from, and how it’s been sourced and farmed. Respecting the land, sourcing seasonally, locally and ethically, minimising waste and ensuring produce is grown and reared in a responsible manner is the Lancashire way. It’s important that myself and the team visit every supplier of ingredients we use at Northcote, it gives the team so much more enthusiasm and respect for the produce they are using, and they can then in turn communicate this to our guests.
Following on from that, what are your predictions for restaurants and dining in future?
Sustainable sourcing and farming is going to become more and more a focus. Right now we are very much focused on the future of dining, and ensuring the next generations can enjoy the amazing ingredients we are. The personal, direct connection with suppliers will continue to be really important.
You’ve racked up quite the on-screen career, appearing on the likes of the Great British Menu Christmas Special, and James Martin’s Saturday Morning, as well as whipping up magic in the kitchen here in the Ribble Valley. What’s more nerve-wracking: filming for tv or unveiling a new menu at Northcote? And more importantly, do you ever sleep?!
To be honest, both are equally as nerve -wracking at the pressure points, TV – undoubtedly I want to do my best, when its live TV, it’s a completely different approach and there is nowhere to hide! I’m very competitive, so when it’s a competition, I put even more pressure on myself to achieve and be the best. It’s important not to lose your identity when talking on TV. When we launch a new menu in the restaurant, the nerves are different but the adrenaline is still there, and the responsibility to make sure I please the guests, my team, and the amazing producers who support me with their produce.
Now for the fun part: you have a table for four and can invite any four people, dead or alive. Who are you inviting and what are you cooking?
My dad, Pink, Nigel Mansell and Sandra Bullock. I would cook English Antipasto, steak & chips and “apple Pie” Lisa’s way!
Finally, do you have any parting advice for young chefs at the start of their career journey?
Gain as much experience as possible, be willing to learn and be open to advice and try to absorb all the skills you can from the people around you like a sponge. Hospitality is an incredible field; not only can you learn a lot through hard work and determination, you can see the world and it is like one big family.
You can sample Lisa's current seasonal menu at Northcote by booking here. Seasonal lunch starts at £48, while the must-try 5 course Gourmet menu starts at £115pp.