Sky High Pies in Donaghadee

Head Chef Jimmy Hughes from Donaghadee Garden Centre submits to our Q&A

So Jimmy. How long have you been a chef?
For 38 years. I started cooking in the Navy when I was 16 years old and I have been at Donaghadee Garden Centre for four years now.

What is the first thing you do each morning when you arrive at work?
I have a cup of tea. Very important. Then I check the fridges, the stock and make sure that I have everything I need for the day's menu. The bakers are in work from 6.30am so they already have the ovens on.

What is the busiest part of your day?
It’s always busy. Between 12 and 2pm is always hectic with the lunch service, as are the evenings between 5 and 6.30pm. As everything is made to order, I have to keep and eye on the dishes out on the bal-marie to see when they need topped up. It’s all go – but that’s the way it should be.

What is the most popular dish on the menu?
Well, I could go on and on and on here. The chicken and broccoli bake is always in demand at lunch time. But the tray-bakes, home made fresh apple pies and fresh rhubarb pies, and our speciality lemon meringue are also very popular with the customers. People just love them. 

At the minute I really love our range of speciality soups – they are a new adventure for us here. I love the flavours and the ingredients in them. I suppose another one of my favourites would have to be the chicken and ham pie.

Which one ingredient could the Creative Gardens kitchen not do without?
Fresh herbs and spices to bring out the flavour – rosemary, chives and garlic. We couldn’t do with out garlic in this place. I grow my own herbs at home. I love going out to the garden to pick my own fresh herbs – they taste so much better. I think it is great that we have such a wide range of fresh herbs here at the garden centre. I would encourage everyone to give it a go and grow their own. 

Apart from cooking, what are your other passions?
Breeding and showing ‘Banty’ chickens all over the UK. They’re my babies. And looking after my grandchildren. I love looking after them. They’re my babies too.

And finally, who runs your kitchen at home, you or your wife?
Well we share the cooking because my wife is a chef too. But when we have a dinner party I cook. And I always cook at Christmas.