Nichola Coates was still at primary school when she developed a love of cooking.

“I used to help cook family meals, and when I was about 11 I did it on my own,” she recalls. “I enjoyed playing around with food – inventing recipes and creating different tastes.”

More than 40 years on, she still enjoys making meals, and is throwing her passion into her job as head chef at the Hare and Hounds in Great Horton Road, Horton Bank Top.

The chatty chef prides herself on the cosy 19th century pub’s home-made, traditional fare – lasagnes, meat and potato pies, curries, chillis and pastas.

“And the puddings are home-made – jam sponge, treacle sponge, roly-poly, crumbles,” she says proudly, adding: “We’ve got a senior citizens’ menu too, with dishes like roast of the day, scampi and sausage and mash – it’s really popular.”

Nichola’s early interest in cooking led to a course at Bradford College where she studied hotel and catering management.

During this time Nichola worked part-time as a waitress in Lillibets pub and restaurant in Liversdege. “It was in the Good Food Guide and had very high standards. It gave me a great insight into the business.”

When she finished college, Nichola moved into the kitchen and didn’t look back. “I started peeling carrots and worked my way up,” she recalls. “I was there for ten years.”

That decade saw her become a mum, with the birth of two daughters, Natalie, 23, and 21-year-old Anna.

The girls decided not to follow in their mum’s culinary footsteps. “When they were growing up they saw me working long hours and nights, and were put off,” says Nichola, adding how one has a career as an auditor for the accounting firm KPMG and the other works as a secretary. “They can both cook though – they are quite good at it, and like me, they enjoy it.”

Nichola, 42, went on to work at various restaurants in the district, then landed a job as catering manger at Willow Valley Golf Club in Clifton, Brighouse, where she stayed for three years.

Despite being surrounded by golfers, she never got the urge to try her hand on the fairways. “I don’t play at all – crazy golf is as close to the game as I get,” she laughs.

Nichola’s culinary skills were noticed by a member of the golf club who was looking for a chef at his pub. “That’s how I come to be here,” she says.

At her Liversedge home, Nichola shares the cooking with her partner Trevor, a retired steelworker.

“Trevor always has the tea ready, and he will give me a glass of wine, and later run me a bath.”