I HATE cooking and avoid it wherever possible, so the last place I want to be on a sweltering hot summer's day is in a sweaty kitchen.

But with more and more food programmes on television, and the rise of the celebrity chef, I decided to join the Painswick Hotel and Restaurant's head chef Mark Redwood to find out what working in a top kitchen is really like.

Expecting a Gordon Ramsayesque, moody perfectionist, whose every other word is an expletive, I was shocked at how friendly and congenial Mark, 28, was to work with.

Admittedly the lunchtime shift at the restaurant is quiet and mainly taken up with preparing food for the evening, so stress is kept to a minimum.

But it's easy to see how even the simplest dish could go wrong if someone takes their eye off what they are doing.

Mark, however, assured me that during a busy evening shift the stress levels can rise if the meals don't work out exactly as he envisaged them.

Commenting the stereotype of head chefs as ranting bullies, he said: "I think the aggressive style is dying out because people won't tolerate being spoken to in that way anymore.

"In the bigger kitchens you can be like that with the pressure and the heat, but we are a small team so you can't get away with it."

"I do swear sometimes but I've got to be careful because the customers can hear us in the kitchen."

I wasn't expecting a chef's job to be particularly creative and as my imagination for food extends about as far as pizza and chips, I was shocked to discover how inventive Mark is with his dishes.

He succeeds perfectly at putting together ingredients that wouldn't normally match and producing tantalising meals that you feel compelled to taste.

We begin by preparing a starter of red mullet with roasted vegetables and avocado ice-cream - which I'm imagining is going to taste pretty foul, but in actual fact goes together perfectly and is very refreshing considering the heat in the kitchen.

Then while under Mark's capable instruction we prepare a number of delectable desserts, such as chocolate cake with lavender ice-cream and strawberry panacotta with basil ice-cream and a black pepper tuile.

To prepare the pannacotta we flambee the strawberries in alcohol, which looks very impressive and is no mean feat.

Trying to set fire to the alcohol and cook the fruit perfectly while not burning yourself or spilling the strawberries is a tricky skill that must get better with practice.

Then like all good chefs I felt obliged to have a taste - I'd never heard of making ice-cream out of avocado, lavender or basil before, but the flavours were really refreshing and seemed to complement perfectly the dish they were put with.

I asked Mark how he came up with the idea of using lavender in his desserts.

He said: "I had a lavender bush outside my house so I gave it a go - and it worked and I introduced it in the restaurant. Avocado ice-cream is great for summer because it's so fresh.

"I like to try different things, but then you've also got to be able to get away with doing the unusual stuff because there's no point in making something that no one would want to try."

Mark began his career as a commis chef at the hotel 11 years ago. He also worked in a kitchen in Windsor, but recently returned to Painswick.

He now lives in Hardwicke with his girlfriend, Caroline Arnold, also 28.

He said: "I always do the cooking when we are at home, but we tend to eat out a lot so I can research new ideas for the restaurant.

"I never switch off from it and have been known to wake up in the middle of the night with an idea that I just have to write down."

Mark is clearly passionate about his cooking and it shows in the dishes he creates, but there are downsides to the job.

"The main down point is the anti-social hours, but you do get used to it, and apart from that it's just the heat of the kitchen that is bad," he said.