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Making her mark at The Watermark

PUBLISHED: 07:54 09 June 2014 | UPDATED: 07:54 09 June 2014

Gemma Arnold, head chef at The Watermark, Holt.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Gemma Arnold, head chef at The Watermark, Holt. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

Why did you choose to become a chef?

Gemma Arnold, head chef at The Watermark, Holt.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYGemma Arnold, head chef at The Watermark, Holt. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

I was originally inspired when I was working as a kitchen porter at a restaurant in Burnham Market. I was only 15, but it made a big impression. I enjoyed the creativity of the kitchen and decided it was something I wanted to do. Later on, I went to work for my aunt, who was also a chef and it felt right to follow in the family footsteps.

What is your earliest food-related memory?

Making currant shortbread and sultana fairy cakes with my grandmother.

What is the strangest thing you have eaten?

I remember eating shark for the first time and hoping it would have an unusual and interesting flavour. Of course, it tasted just like chicken!

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I’ve had the privilege to work alongside some great people who have given me opportunities and taught me so much. I was chef de partie for Matthew Owsley Brown at The Fishes restaurant in Burnham Market, and while working for the late Paul Whittome I represented The Hoste Armes in food demonstrations and cook-off events, both of which I really enjoyed.

What do you enjoy most about working at The Watermark?

I enjoy everything about working and being a part-owner of The Watermark. I have a great team to work with and particularly enjoy conversations with our regular customers

What is special about your menu?

We serve food all day and offer lots of variety, from cooked breakfasts and light bites to an a la carte selection for lunch and dinner. Pasta is a speciality, we make it freshly every day. We also offer afternoon teas, and our evening menu changes daily as we work closely with local suppliers and select only the best seasonal ingredients.

What is your favourite local ingredient?

It has to be fish from along the north Norfolk coast. Specifically, smoked fish and lobsters from Simon Letzer in Brancaster, Chris Everitt for his mussels and Richard Loose for his oysters.

Are there any foods you can’t stand?

I like pretty much everything apart from Brussels sprouts.

Have you had any cooking disasters?

I tried to help out a friend by making a birthday cake. Baking cakes is one of my specialities, so it should have been a thing of beauty, but that week was the launch of The Watermark. After some very long shifts ensuring everything went smoothly for the launch weekend, my friend’s cake didn’t go smoothly at all. In fact it was a disaster. I have since learned my lesson and realise that sometimes I just have to say “No”.

What would your last supper consist of?

It would have to be a Brancaster lobster, Thai buttered crust, stir fried oriental vegetables and egg noodles. For dessert I would choose dark chocolate fondant with chilli chocolate jelly and coconut sorbet.

Do you cook for friends and family too?

One of my nephews has shown an interest in learning to cook, so on some days off, my partner and I give him lessons. He always decides what we should cook and so far the key ingredient has been chocolate! I also like to cook for my partner.

The Watermark Wine Bar and Restaurant is open daily, 7.45am to 11pm, Monday to Saturday, and from 9am to 10pm on Sundays.

The Watermark, Appleyard, Holt, NR25 6AR; 01263 710790; www.watermarkholt.com

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