We thought it’d be nice to give people more of a connection with our staff and chefs. For our first edition of ‘Chef Profile’, we’ve been talking to The Windmill’s Will Devlin.
How Will found himself in The Windmill’s kitchen
“I’ve always loved food, always cooked for family and friends.” Thanks to Mum and Dad, Will was helping get dinner ready from a very young age. But it wasn’t always seen as a career option.
Will was a mechanic first off, but didn’t quite take to it and found the call of the wild was too strong. He disappeared off traveling until he was 19, and on his return took a step back to figure out what he wanted to do.
It was Mum who once again provided the guiding hand. She told him to do what he loves – food – and, after training at West Kent College, working a few stints in various pubs, and a short time in a Michelin starred restaurant in London, he found himself missing the country and got in touch with the chef he respected most in the area – Richard Phillips.
Will spent a year at Thackeray’s learning from the best before Richard took on The Windmill, and asked Will to run it for him.
‘Yes Chef’ was the obvious answer.
How The Windmill compares to other pubs
The first thing Will mentions when asked what makes The Windmill stand out is the constant evolution.
The food and drinks change much faster than most pubs. New dishes are added and old ones removed all the time, and variation is the key. Seasonal produce is added incredibly quickly with the help of the local fruit and vegetable supplier, David Catt. Will speaks to him almost every day about what’s coming in, and what’s going out.
This fluid approach to the menus doesn’t, however, mean that repeat guests can’t be sure what they’re going to get. The quality is consistent and that means many people return again and again, trying new things and occasionally going back to an old favourite when it reappears on the menu.
What’s more, Will aims to make sure there’s something for everyone. “Other pubs are too inflexible” he says. “They stick to the gastropub label, or the restaurant label.” The Windmill is an independent pub and so doesn’t have a corporate suit telling them what to stock or what to serve. For that reason they can offer everything from classic pub favourites to more technical, delicate dishes.
What to look forward to this Summer
What Will is most looking forward to this summer is getting outside! The outside dining terrace, BBQ and smoker has really taken off in the first few weeks and is going from strength to strength. Father’s day was record-breaking in terms of covers out there, so he expects it to be used throughout summer and as far into autumn as he can get away with.
“It’s another string to our bow. We can now claim to be a cosy, country pub in winter, and in the summer offer the best BBQ in Kent.”
The feedback so far has been incredible. It’s been a great interactive feature between customers and the staff, with people often coming up to the BBQ to ask for tips for home-cooking and smoking. It’s an open, personal experience and has far exceeded everyone’s expectations. Menu here.
What to look forward to beyond that
“Game season! My favourite season for food.” The first pheasant shoot will transform the menu into a very traditional, very English affair perfect for the cooling weather.
“Past that, there’s Bonfire night, then Christmas parties and functions, and into the new year!”
Current favourite dish
“Definitely the duck. I always like using the whole animal in one dish – it means you get a great variety of flavours and textures from one source. And the fresh asparagus it comes with is perfect right now.”
It’s a summer dish that isn’t salad, and has been flying off the menus recently.
Current favourite ingredient
Without hesitation, Will’s answer is tomatoes. He says they’re something that tastes completely different in season to out of season. “And we do them exceptionally well in this England.”
Current favourite drink
It’s gin weather at the minute, and Will’s very proud of the wide selection The Windmill now offers. “We now have 7 gins and are always looking to add more. My favourite is Bathtub gin – if you haven’t tried it, you really should.”
And for the perfect pint, he’s a big fan of Longman brewery. “The blonde beers are especially awesome” he says.
That’s about it from Will! Make sure you come down to The Windmill soon to give his recommendations a go…