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We meet with Alex Boyd Executive Head Chef at Caxton Grill for Chef’s Table

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Alex Boyd

 

Alex Boyd grow up in Aldershot and then at the age of 18 moved to London. For two years prior to moving Alex travelled to Westminster College to study for a Professional Chefs Diploma having decided at the age of 12 that a chef is what he wanted to be.

In his second year at college, one of the work placements he attended was at Scotts of Mayfair. Two months in, Alex was offered a position in the kitchen. Not wishing to give up his college position he studied and had the theory in the mornings and worked the late shift at Scotts in the evening, gaining invaluable experience and as he says “best thing I ever did” As a commis Alex worked on all stations and was always asking questions.

His culinary CV continued with time working for Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire. The “very tough environment” of a Michelin kitchen under Chef Koffman instilling lessons that remain with him today. His career includes working at the Montcalm Hotel, where he progressed from Chef de Partie to Senior Sous Chef in just three months and the Bluebird Restaurant, Chelsea. He was then involved in the launch of the V Restaurant & Bar in Hong Kong, where he spent three years learning new skills and experimenting with a variety of local ingredients. Alex then returned to London to join L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, another two Michelin starred restaurant, before his appointment as Head of Catering at the Lawn Tennis Association. Here he spent six years before leaving for a senior role as Executive Head Chef at The Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London.

 

He is now Executive Head Chef at the St. Ermin’s Hotel and for the Caxton Grill. We chatted to him in the Private Dining room of the Caxton Grill. That morning Alex had already been busy up in the Roof Kitchen Garden on top of the hotel checking on the 350,000 Buckfast honey bees that produce the St. Ermin’s Hotel’s own honey and the homegrown fruits and vegetables utilised in his inspired new afternoon tea and Caxton menus.

 


 

Q: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?

A: Racing Driver – I could have been the next Lewis Hamilton…

Karting

Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

A:  Alinea in Chicago. I think Grant Achatz is just amazing he is so far ahead of other restauranteurs. So innovative in the plating and the way desserts are served direct on to the tables, definitely somewhere I want to visit.

Grant Achatz (1)

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Also, I have to say I really want to get to the Fat Duck, not managed that yet

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Q: How important is a Michelin star? A chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that they are removed because of the pressure – your thoughts

A: Its a very interesting topic of conversation. Because you’ve got the customer and you’ve got a chef, and a chef will work hard because for him it’s a status symbol it’s recognition of hours and hours of hard work, pushing the limits, maintaining consistency and training his brigade to put out what you need them to put out. It’s a huge amount of work. From a customers point of view, I think people look to it as a certain standard of food. They like to go, certainly in London, to place they hear about, oh did you know this place has a star, or that place has a star. It can really help business and I think it almost puts you on the map especially in a city where there are lots of great restaurants getting that star elevates you to another status. So, I do think they’re important and I do think the industry needs them it’s almost like getting a BAFTA or an Oscar.

 

 

Q: What do you think about negative reviews?

A: You have to be aware of them but take them with a pinch of salt. I mean it depends if there are constantly negative reviews about a place, that’s telling you something. But if you’ve got a hundred reviews and two of them are negative so the majority of customers are happy, then that’s a good place. I think you need to look at reviews as a bigger picture rather than reacting to one person’s comments. All of the online services like TripAdvisor make it so easy for people to be negative in fact they almost encourage it.  We get it here, but I would personally much rather a customer speak to us at the time and we can sort out the issue and hopefully end up with a happy customer.

Q: Having spent some time in Hong Kong do you use any of the techniques or ingredients from the in your cooking/kitchen now?

A: I would say I’m a lot more comfortable working with asian spices etc. But Chinese cooking is so different to how we cook in the UK. Caxton’s menu is modern British so it would not be appropriate to bring too many Chinese influences into the kitchen, but I do have the techniques if required. There is one dish I would like to maybe try on the menu. I had it a couple of times whilst in Hong Kong, it’s called Scallops baked in Crab Milk. It’s almost like a very light crab mouse with the scallops baked through it. Like a savoury blancmange but full of flavour. I’m trying to emulate it but not totally successfully yet.

 

Q: What are your personal favourite dishes that are currently on the Caxton menus: A) to cook and B) to eat

A: To eat it would be one of the starters. Beef Carpaccio its done with Basil Dressing, smoked almonds and parmesan. We use fillet of beef from a farm we work closely with, in Sussex. It is incredible beef and which we dress with pickled shallot rings, basil leaves and little parmesan croquettes.

Caxton Beef (1)

To prepare would be a salmon dish. We cure the salmon for an hour and then sous vide at 42 degrees to get a really soft melting piece of salmon. Served with Horseradish Cream, Pickled Cucumber and a smoked salmon foam.

Alex Boyd

 

Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any chef past or present who would that be and why?

A: oh wow… anyone? Then It would have to be Anton Mosimann he’s an inventor of modern gastronomy, nouvelle cuisine. He was right at the forefront of that and an incredibly knowledgeable chef. I’ve heard he has thousands and thousands of cookbooks, a room full of them apparently and that he is a real gentleman. That would be an incredible opportunity.

 

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My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Eleven Madison Park

Last year In April I had the chance to visit again 11 Madison Park in New York. The night we were there was the day it was announced they had won the Best Restaurant in the world. Everything about this restaurant is amazing. I would suggest to anyone going there to try the Baked Sweet Potato because whats put in front of you looks just like a piece of baked potato, but when you taste it it’s simply an incredible depth of flavour and texture.

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Website – https://www.elevenmadisonpark.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ElevenMadisonPark/

 

Kitchen W8

I used to live just down the road from here and my wife and I started going when they first opened. Phil Howard is behind the concept and it recently got its first Star. Right from the beginning, you could see that they just wanted to serve really great food

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Website – https://www.kitchenw8.com/

Twitter – @KitchenW8

 

 

 

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At the Chef’s Table – Jeremy Villanueva, Head Chef, Romulo Café London

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Romulo Café London, on High Street Kensington W8, has had remarkable success since opening just over two years ago. It’s now considered the  ‘go-to’ restaurant for fine Filipino cuisine in London. The recent appointment of Jeremy Villanueva as Head Chef has led to a new menu and even greater attention. Like owner Rowena Romulo, Jeremy is on a mission to make fine Filipino food as popular as other Asian cuisines.

Our Chef’s Table team thought we should get to know Jeremy a little better…

 

 


 

CT:  Who influenced you in the past? Who influences you now?

 

JV: Two chefs stand out in my past. One is Richard Blades, who was Executive Chef at Simpsons-in-the-Strand when I joined as a commis straight out of catering college (Blackpool and the Fylde). He had a very well thought out style of management, and a logical approach to his staff. He was a good people manager, and chefs who are good with their people can get a lot out of them. Richard also used to be the Head Chef at the Atlantic Bar and Grill at the height of its fame.

The other is Michel Roux Jr, another great people manager. He had a healthy respect for the traditions and the legacy of his father and uncles. The Rouxs were always firm but they treated their people well. I trained with him at Le Gavroche before going to the Waldorf Club.

Today there is no particular person who influences me, but it’s more the innovations I see in Filipino food right now. Filipino food has evolved so now we look at the food beyond its utilitarian value – as a means of sustenance. Filipino food is as much food for the senses, not just the belly.

 

CT: What would be your last dish (to eat) ‘the death row question’.

JV: A version of Poulet de Bresse. It would be cooked free-range chicken done in the ‘inasal’ style of Bacolod, the capital of the province of Negros Occidental in the Philippines. It would be cooked over Bincho Tan, charcoal from Japan, with a side salad of Cos lettuce, radish and ramsons. I’d wash it down with a glass of fresh calamansi (Philippine lime) juice.

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CT: If you were not a chef, what could you have become?

JV: To be honest, I would never have considered being anything else but a chef. I decided at 18, and that was it. I’m interested in electronics, but it’s not something I would see myself doing as a job. Once I started to cook, I never looked left or right. I always enjoyed being in the kitchen when I was young. For fun, my uncles used to make pizzas and several kinds of pasta. My family has always been into food.

 

CT: Which restaurant would you like to go to (eat at)? (that you have NOT had the opportunity to visit)

Chef Monica Galetti’s Mere in Charlotte Street. I would tell her, ‘Congratulations, well done.’ I worked with her in Le Gavroche.

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CT: Which are the next ‘new’ ingredients’?

‘Ube’, which is purple yam, and ‘Langka’, or jackfruit. I don’t know of anyone else who uses ube as much as Filipinos do, apart from people in Fiji or Guam. The Filipino community in Hawaii love ube cheesecake. But generally, the purple colour seems to be catching! Langka is the new pork for vegans, meaty and flavourful and very versatile. It can be eaten green or ripe. It can be sweet or savoury. That leaves a lot of scope for chefs. I actually saw fresh langka being sold in Peckham.

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Young Jackfruit and Coconut Stew (1)

 

CT: What is the one piece of equipment you could not do without?

JV: Our Rational oven.

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CT: What is your favourite dish in which you use produce from your most local supplier?

JV: The supplier is obviously not based in London where we are, but my favourite dish is Dingley Dell Pork Adobo. The produce is highly sustainable, and we source it from the only RSPCA accredited suppliers of pork. They create a really good grade of pork, the best quality. Today it’s not so much about the seasoning that creates flavour, although it does, so much depends on the quality of the meat, the primary product.

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CT: If you could invite any chef, past or present, to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?

JV: Fernand Point. He was the chef patron of La Pyramidein Vienne, France. His book, ‘Ma Gastronomie’ is one of the first books I read by a known chef. I was fascinated by what he said. One of his signature dishes was a chicken with crayfish. He was of the old school. He still influences the mentality of many kitchens. Many of his quotes endure and continue to guide chefs today, such as ‘Success is the sum of a lot of small things done correctly’ and ‘I’m not hard to please; I’m content with the very best’. Chef Fernand is someone I can imagine cooking with, in the evening, champagne in hand, listening to his musings.

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My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Le Gavroche. It’s the traditional service as much as the cuisine. It’s a complete experience. Their service is intuitive. They take care not to make you feel uncomfortable.

Website –  http://www.le-gavroche.co.uk/

Twitter – @legavroche_

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Social Eating House. I like the Blind Pig bar. It’s innovative and exciting. I went to catering school with Chef Paul Hood. If I am not mistaken, I think that out of the 30 of us who went to catering school together, we are the only ones still cooking.

Website – http://www.socialeatinghouse.com/

Twitter – @Socialeathouse

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CT: Finally Is there a message you would like to convey about Filipino food and Romulo Cafe?

 

JV: People should come in and see that ours is not the same as Vietnamese food or Thai.  Filipino food tends to get lumped with other Southeast Asian foods. But ours is different. Even the influences we get from other culinary traditions we have made our own. So our Pollo Relleno is not a lesser version of what they have in Spain. It stands by itself, as do our Callos or Paella. Our Pancit Guisado is not Chow Mein. It is a Filipino dish, and not an interpretation of something else. It has its own terroir.

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Chef’s Table – Anthony Wright – Head Chef L20 Restaurant

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Anthony Wright has been in the hospitality industry for over 17 years working in some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the North West of England. He has worked at Hugh Baird College’s, L20 Hotel School and L20 Restaurant for more than 5 years, starting out as a Sous Chef and taking the reins as Head Chef in 2016.

Since becoming Head Chef, Anthony has furthered the reputation of the L20 Restaurant with an appearance in the Liverpool Cookbook. L20 an open to the public restaurant where students delivering a 100% made on site menu. With Anthony and his team training students in modern cooking techniques in the flagship restaurant. During the college year, the restaurant is open 12-2 Tuesday-Friday lunch with dinner Thursday night 5-8 and we offer Sunday lunch 12-3. They also host guest chef evenings every month and have a themed menu each month.

Recently, he has also given demonstrations at the Southport and Formby Food Festivals. The L20 Restaurant was recently presented with a Highly Commended AA Rosette in the College Restaurant category and the L20 Fish Pie won an award in a food photography competition for the plating presentation.

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Question: Which Chef/s influenced you in the past? Who continuous to influence you now?

Anthony: My chef influences come from Grant Achatz, Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsey and Thomas Keller, each chef is very different but they all produce excellent food. They all continue to influence me day to day and they are always continuing to push themselves. I try to recreate this in the L20 kitchen with our students.

Grant Achatz (1) Heston (1) Gordon ramsey (1) Thomas_Keller_Wiltons

Question: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

Anthony: There are too many restaurants to go on this list. But if I had to choose it would have to be the Holy Grail, Alinea in Chicago. I just love how you’re on the edge of your seat and you question everything that you’re eating.

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Question: If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants/restaurant food, what would they be?

Anthony: Food has become more expensive especially with the dairy market rocketing with crazy prices, plus in general ingredients prices have also increased. So when you’re costing you need to cover for your overheads which include the staff that are cooking and serving the food to the cleaning of the plates. I think the public doesn’t see this side of thinking when it comes to prices. With so many chain restaurants that charge cheap prices on the high street, this is pushing the independent restaurants out of business.

 

Question: Have you been featured or would you like to be featured on any TV food programs, are these types of shows a good thing for the restaurant industry and chefs?

Anthony: I keep considering going on master chef the professionals just to give it a go and see how far I can get. However, the nerves set in and I withdraw the application. I just think the experience would get me with tops chefs like 2 Michelin star Chef Marcus Wareing and Monica Galleti. Sometimes I watch the skills test and I think I could do that. But in front of Marcus and Monica plus the cameras, it seems very daunting. I do think these types of shows showcase the current industry and the skills diversity. You can see what variation of chefs apply and how they improve throughout the show showing that you don’t need a specific skill set to apply.

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Question: If you received a call to say that Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, are visiting the Hugh Baird campus and you are asked to create a Lunch Menu, what would you have the student feature?

Anthony: We would love to cook confit trout dish with trout skin quaver, ponzu, apple and watercress. For the main course would be L20s “scouse” or we could do our award winning Fish Pie, followed by my interoperation of a Lemon meringue pie

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Question: What are your personal favourite dishes that have been on menus in the recent terms, A) to cook and B) to eat

Anthony: A)”To Cook” – recently we had a cod dish with bacon, peas, bbq gem lettuce, potato crisp and dashi. Quite a simple dish but the dish is cooked to order, which makes it a good fresh dish.

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B) “To Eat” Would be white chocolate and passion fruit cheesecake with mango sorbet and mango salsa, a very refreshing taste and classic flavours

Question: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

Anthony: I would love to cook in Grant Achatz Alinea kitchen in Chicago. I think he’s at the top of his game and has been for years. He’s a chef who makes the customer question everything they are eating, he brings fun to the dining room with a twist. Foods such as the edible balloon and bbq chicken thigh that cooks unexpected at the table. He brings desserts to life at the table.

Grant Achatz (1)

 

My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant (1): El Gato Negro in Manchester. Great food and drink in a relaxing atmosphere. Sat on the chefs counter here and it’s great to see the food cooked fresh in front of you and the taste is awesome. Reasonably priced plus they stock my favourite beer the Estrella Indeit. @elgatonegrofood. Twitter

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Restaurant (2): Freemasons at Wiswell. Upmarket pub food with a twist and big bold flavours. I’ve dined here a few times and it just seems to get better every time. It must be truffle cheese hot dogs and Lamb fat Brioche (I’m addicted). It’s such a hidden gem in the small village of Wiswell.

@wiswellman Twitter

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At the Chef’s Table with Daniel Kent of Wiltons

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Daniel joined Wiltons in 2011, having previously worked at some of London’s finest restaurants such as Le Café Anglais, Skylon and The Wolseley. He initially went to university with the idea that he would become a Restaurant Manager. However, upon graduating, he fell in love with cooking, having been previously inspired by the many Sunday lunches at his aunt’s house where she would put on a feast of local Yorkshire produce and sherry-laced trifle! He has a firm belief that use of great ingredients and an exceptional team behind him is the perfect recipe for a world-class establishment.  He has enjoyed re-introducing many of Wiltons classic dishes as well as showcasing many of his own creations.


 

 

Question: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

Daniel: A cep risotto, it’s a classic but I absolutely love this dish.

Cep_risotto

Question: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?

Daniel: I loved History at school and I had a brilliant teacher who really got me interested in it and I think it made me want to be a History teacher.  But then came the part-time job in the kitchen and I got the hospitality bug.

Question: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

Daniel: Faviken in Sweden, the whole experience is so far away from what we do here it really appeals to me.

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Question: What do you think about negative reviews?

Daniel: I hate them! We have let the guest down, but you have to look at them and understand where we let them down, was it the cooking, the ambience or not understanding why they were visiting our restaurant and in turn, how do we make them feel comfortable as our guests. We have to make the reviews a tool to understand how we can improve.  We have a policy of not questioning the guest if they have made the wrong choice of wine or dish and we will go some way to replacing it if they let us know during the meal we are more than happy to correct it there and then.

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Question: If you received a call from The White House to say the President was in town and wanted a British Dinner Menu at Wiltons what would you feature?

Daniel:  We know now that President Trump is in love with American Food but I think we would have to bring him back to his ancestral roots with some amazing Scottish salmon and the amazing products we have in the United Kingdom,  be that the beef we use to make the consommé or the oysters that are paired with it.  I’m sure he has a sweet tooth as well so he won’t go wrong with our formidable Summer pudding…

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River Yealm oysters with jellied beef consommé and horseradish

Steamed Wild salmon with asparagus and watercress

Summer pudding the best of British products.

 

Question: What is your favourite dish on the current Wiltons menu/s that you re-introduced from the long history of the restaurant?

Daniel: The Cropwell Bishop twice baked soufflé is the dish that I reintroduced as it was on the menu in the past as a Souffle Monico and it is a dish that has really found a following with our regulars. We even put it on our private dining room menu as people have asked for it several times… I think it’s the balance of the cheeses we use the texture of the soufflé that seems to have the guests wanting more and even asking for the recipe!

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Question: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

Daniel: I would love to cook with Thomas Keller as I think he has a level of perfection that is inspiring and I love his use of using producers who are driven in their fields. I would love to talk to him about how he has trained so many talented chefs through his kitchens and how he uses his “on the pass moments” that he posts on Instagram to inspire his team and of course how I can replicate the infamous oyster and caviar dish.

Thomas_Keller_Wiltons

 

My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant (1): J Sheekey’s it’s a little dinner treat for me and the wife before the theatre and I love that it gets me brownie points for the intimate and romantic feel of it.  @JSheekeyRest

 

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Restaurant (2): Noble Rot, I just love Lamb Conduit Street and how this restaurant has found its place here, brilliant food and wine, the table just by the fireplace in Winter is brilliant. @noblerotbar

 

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At the Chef’s Table with Stefano Turconi of Franco’s

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Stefano joined Franco’s as a senior chef de partie two years after the restaurant’s initial re-design in 2005.  After successfully working in all the sections of the kitchen, he was soon promoted to the position of senior sous chef.  Two years later when the previous head chef resigned, it was an easy decision to promote Stefano to Head Chef Stefano continues to inspire and delight with new dishes on a daily basis.  Although from the north of Italy, Stefano has a passion for many of the ingredients from central and southern regions.  With Stefano’s thoughtful guidance, Franco’s continues to focus on ensuring the consistency and quality of all the products we serve.

 


 

Question: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

Stefano: Pizza with spicy Calabrian sausage

Calabrian sausage pizza

Calabrian sausage pizza

Question: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

Stefano: I would love to try Osteria Francescana – Massimo Bottura’s 3 Michelin Star restaurant in Modena, voted best world restaurant 2016/18

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Question: How important is a Michelin star? a chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that they are removed because of the pressure – your thoughts

Stefano: Michelin star it is the very top of the game, but not the most important thing in hospitality, you can have a successful restaurant even without it.

 

Question: What’s the most overused word on restaurant menus’ today

Stefano: These days you can always see in most menu the word’s healthy and light

 

 

Question: If you received a call from Buckingham Palace asking you to create a Dinner Menu with dishes or ingredients from your home region in Italy what would you feature?

Stefano: If I needed to choose ingredients or dishes from Lombardy, It would have to be some risotto some gorgonzola cheese and a pudding made of panettone.

Risotto with Gorgonzola

Risotto with Gorgonzola

Classic Panettone

Classic Panettone

Question: What is your favourite dish on the current Franco’s menu/s in which you use foraged ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

Stefano: Cornish hake with fennel black olives and saffron

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Question: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

Stefano: Definitely Nico Ladenis OR Marco Pierre White two of the best chefs ever

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My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant (1): Locanda Locatelli: simply the best and most original Italian restaurant in London

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Restaurant (2): Chez Bruce: a very interesting style of food, using various worldwide ingredients

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Chef’s Table Interview with Gareth Stevenson from Palé Hall

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Gareth currently heads up the team as Head Chef at Palé Hall, the luxury country house hotel and restaurant in North Wales. Since taking the helm at Palé Hall he has truly established his credentials as a rising star. Originally mentored by the Hotel Restaurant adviser Chef Michael Caines, who Gareth had previously worked with as Head Chef as part of the ABode Hotels and Restaurant Group. Gareth and Michael had worked closely to develop a fine dining menu at Palé Hall to tantalise the taste buds of all those lucky enough to experience it.

We asked how did it begin…

So I never really planned on becoming a chef, I had always been interested in food, and always cooked and baked with my Mum, but I fell into cooking as a backup. I worked for free for a few weeks at a hotel called Northop Hall near the border with Chester, my uncle is a gardener there so he had a word with the head chef to see if I could try it out to see how I got on. So I started there full time when I started college at Deeside (now Coleg Cambria) when I was 20.

 

I did 2 years there before I went to the Abode. So basically I applied there when I was coming to the end of my second year at college before it was opened, I felt stepping straight into the kitchen at the Grosvenor was maybe a step too far so working at somewhere maybe a small step below under somebody like Michael Caines would be a better fit. I was part of the opening team there as a commis and worked myself up from there. I worked under Stuart Collins to start with ( owner of Docket No.33) and it would be fair to say his impact on my career, through style, attitude, discipline and training was a big one.

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Question: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

 

Gareth: This might not go down too well with some people, but I love faggots, baked potatoes with butter and mushy peas. One of those meals that always brings back nice memories of my childhood.

English-Faggots

 

Question: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

 

Gareth: Frantzen in Stockholm – it has recently been awarded 3 Michelin stars. Every time I see them make or create a new dish, I can’t help but be blown away by the attention to detail, not just in the procurement of the product and the cooking, but the way they have thought out the whole experience, for every single dish.

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Question: If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants/restaurant food, what would they be?

Gareth: That it is expensive. Food is not, and should not be cheap, ignoring the fact that a producer has put in time and money to create what we use.  It might take 5 days to make a sauce from stock to the finished article, there might be 15 people involved in cooking, serving and cleaning up after your meal, we have been misled by chain “restaurants” selling poor food at low prices.

Question: How important is a Michelin star? A chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that for them to be removed because of the pressure – your thoughts?

Gareth: I think in terms of the business, it is massively important, there are statistics to back it up with regard to increases in numbers. For the chef, I’ve not been awarded one yet so I can’t honestly say, that it is an added pressure and stress? Of course, but it is also a massive personal achievement. However, as the cliché goes, cook for your guests, not the guides.

 

Question: If you received a call from Buckingham Palace asking you to create a Dinner Menu with dishes or ingredients from either Wales or from the area you grow up in, what would you feature?

Gareth: I’m from Leicestershire originally, so I think with hand raised pork pies, Stilton and Stichelton Red Leicester we could contribute to a buffet. However, we have some phenomenal local producers here in Wales. I would be tempted to do a beef wellington using our local Welsh black beef, something very regal about a Wellington. I think some Anglesey Lobster would go down well to start, a nice raviolo, and then I’d do a Tarte Tatin with vanilla ice cream, using apples from our orchard here at Palé.

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Question: What is your favourite dish that you have created in the past 6 months which you use foraged ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

Gareth: We don’t forage much, wild garlic, pine, wood sorrel and elderflower is about it, but we have had a dish on the tasting menu this spring. Roast Welsh black beef fillet –  we braise some cheek with it too, then we make a puree of wild garlic, some wild garlic oil, and some really lightly sautéed wild garlic, we serve it with morels, pommes maxim and beef madeira sauce.

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Question: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

Gareth: Maybe Charlie Trotter, he was a bit of a superstar. After his death, I read a piece by a gentleman who had eaten a tasting menu at his restaurant, over 50 times, and never had the same dish twice. I think that is pretty remarkable when you cook at his level.

 

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My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant (1): Sticky Walnut, they just do good food well, I used to work across the city from there so if I did eat out in Chester, it would be at Sticky. @StickyWalnut

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Restaurant (2): Docket No. 33. Whitchurch. @Docket_no33. Chef Stuart Collins was my first executive chef, so has had a big impact on my career, and he owns this restaurant with his wife Fran. Such a good little restaurant, big flavours, well cooked, it’s the sort of thing I aspire to one day.

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At the Chef’s Table – Jesse Dunford Wood

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Jesse’s food is firmly based in Britain, although his experiences cooking very international and contemporary food with superstar chefs – in Chicago with the late Charlie Trotter, and in Sydney with Mark Best have also been strong influences.

Mark Best Late Charlie Trotter

 

An apprenticeship with Michael Caines (2**) and also time spent with British chefs Rowley Leigh and Mark Hix culminated in opening the National Dining Rooms at the National Gallery in 2006. Together with restaurateur Oliver Peyton, now a TV authority on ‘Great British Menu’, they won the Best British restaurant from Time Out for original and interesting food.

 

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In April 2010, he relaunched the Mall Tavern in trendy Notting Hill Gate, cooking colourful and delicious British seasonal food, later winning the Rising Star Award by the Tatler Restaurant Guide. It was voted 20th best Gastro Pub in Great Britain from the trade magazine The Morning Advertiser.

In May 2013 Jesse opened PARLOUR in NW10, Kensal Green, an all-day bar and dining room, the next stage in an exciting career. Also included in the best 50 Gastro Pubs every year since opening, and winning BEST BREAKFAST in London from the Evening Standard.

Away from the restaurants and pubs, TV appearances include the BBC’s ‘Masterchef’, ‘Market Kitchen’ and ‘The Truth About Food’, and a regular contributor to various cookbooks and magazines, including the brilliant FORAGER handbook by Miles Irving.
2016 has seen lots of menu development work with both British Airways and United Airlines for European and Transatlantic Business and First Class Cabins.
2017 sees the publication of his first Cook Book ‘MODERN BRITISH FOOD’ with Absolute Press cookery publishing house. Exciting Times!

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Q: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

A: Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Bacon & a Crunchy Cheesy Top, great comfort food before I get my head chopped off.

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Q: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?

A: I was going to be a Doctor, then I got my science GCSE grades, and they weren’t good enough, so I decided on Photography, but I got distracted by cooking dinner parties and thought that a much better idea, so I got a job in a restaurant washing dishes in Edinburgh, and that was me hooked.

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Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

A: Love to go to the new NOMA, progressive and at the forefront of Modern Food, and also Alain Ducasse in Monaco, the ultimate in Luxury.

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Q: What is set to be the next ‘new’ ingredient? And which in particular interests you.

A: I think Choux pastry is currently staking it’s claim, with Profiteroles, Eclairs and even churros style deep-fried versions all over the place at the moment, sweet and savoury. To keep up with the kids, we do amazing duck liver profiteroles here, which are to die for. Ask my wife, most of the reason my wife married me.

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Q: If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants/restaurant food, what would they be?

A: This is a performance-based industry, and we have to produce, day in and day out, relentlessly for breakfast lunch and dinner. If we give you one bad performance, please give us another chance, it was most probably one bad night.

Everyone has a bad day once in a while no?

 

Q: If you received a call from Buckingham Palace asking you to create a Dinner Menu from your book Modern British Food what would you feature?

A: Those Duck Liver Profiteroles, followed by Smoked Salmon that we smoke here on site with our famous Soda Bread. We do an epic Roast Dinner, with all the trimmings and lastly our Toasted Marshmallow Wagon Wheel is a classic here at Parlour and fit for a King, and a Queen too…

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Q: What is your favourite dish on the current Parlour menu/s in which you use foraged ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

A: Not foraged, but very personal to me is the Lop Eared Pig, which we receive as a whole beast from a favourite supplier Mary Holbrook in Somerset. We do lots of amazing things with, using the trotters and tail. And all the bits in-between.

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She also provides us with Goats’ cheese, which she is quite famous for, her Tymsboro’ and also a few baby suckling kids in the Spring.

What a treat.

Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

A: Love to work with Escoffier in his prime and see how hard REAL chefs used to work. He set the standard for many of the things we do here today in the modern kitchen. Genius and visionary, back when we are basically cooking food over burning wood still.

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My Favourite Tables – Restaurants I have visited several times and why?

Restaurant (1):  Perilla Dining in Newington Green, is progressive, energetic, simply set up and exceeds expectations. A chef’s chef doing creative modern food in a simple surrounding.

 

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Restaurant (2):  Ida Restaurant in Kilburn Lane, 5 mins walk from my own place Parlour. Owned and run by wife & husband, helped by their kids and also somewhere building a reputation on a meagre budget. Lovely Italian food, in a rustic homemade setting.

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We Chat To Josh Overington Chef Patron of Restaurant Le Cochon Aveugle In York

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Josh Overington has been passionate about food and it’s origins since he was a young boy, when his Grandfather – a gourmand in the truest sense and a huge influence in Joshua’s life – introduced him to the culinary delights in Yorkshire, as well as further afield in France and other parts of Europe. This led to a year in Sydney, where Josh got a taste of what it was like working in a restaurant kitchen. Returning to the UK he worked for the next couple of years in some of the best kitchens in England, Josh then went to Paris to Le Cordon Bleu to hone his skills further.

Returning to York with partner Victoria, Josh opened the doors to Le Cochon Aveugle (and later, his wine bar, Cave du Cochon) where his set menu changes not just with the seasons, but on an almost daily basis, according to the produce available to him from his carefully selected growers, producers and farmers. He believes in cooking with a lightness of touch – using his skills purely to enhance and showcase the inherent quality of the food itself.

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Q: Which Chef/s influenced you in the past? Who continuous to influence you now?

A: David Kinch – Manresa

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& Alain Passard – L’Arpege

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Both have and continue to inspire me – their use of and focus on vegetables is a constant source of inspiration and helped me to develop in the kitchen.

Q: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

A: I keep changing my mind! But at the moment, I’m craving Sunday dinner, so it would have to be Roast Rib of Beef, roasties and Yorkshire puddings.

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Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

A: At the moment there are two – The Sportsman in Kent and Crown at Burchett’s Green. The food from both looks right up my street, the kind of food you just want to demolish. Need to get to them!

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Q: Which city or country is the most innovative in terms of food?

A: I still think Paris is up there. From the bistro scene to the very fine dining, it is constantly changing and staying fresh. The bistronomy restaurants are responsible  – it’s such a great way to dine.

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Q: Who have you cooked for that has given you the most pleasure?

A: I’ve cooked for a lot of people, but I always enjoy going home and cooking for my nan.  She and my late grandfather fed me many times growing up, so it’s nice to return the favour.

Q: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use foraged ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

A: Our menu changes each day, so it’s hard to say exactly. We work with renowned grower Ken Holland, so our produce changes each day according to what is ready to be harvested. Currently, we have a braised baby leeks on with sauce gribiche, oyster emulsion, which is so tasty – especially at this time of year when you’re yearning for some new Spring produce.

Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

A: Fergus Henderson – he’s written my favourite cookbook. I’d like to pick his brains and have a drink or two with him!

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My Favourite Tables – Restaurants I have visited several times and why?

Restaurant (1):  The Black Swan at Oldstead and Chef Tommy Banks

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Restaurant (2):  Skosh, York and Chef Neil Bentinck

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Shoot The Bull Chef, Chris Harrison Chats to Chef’s Table

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Chef Chris Harrison has been a Chef for just over ten years. His career started locally to where he grew up working in the kitchens of a Country House restaurant with rooms just outside Hull. From almost the moment he entered this first kitchen he set his sights on having his own business. He now runs two businesses Shoot the Bull which is a catering company that focuses on street food and The Old House a city centre restaurant in Hull. After 10 years as a chef, “slave to the stove” as he calls it, he decided it was time to take the leap into self-employment, starting Shoot The Bull in 2015.

His career has seen him working at restaurants including The Fat Duck, The Hand & Flowers and Gidleigh Park alongside exceptionally well-regarded chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, who taught him to push boundaries with food, but his main motivation comes from seeing his customers enjoying the food he puts so much care and attention into producing.

 

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Q: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?

A: As a child, I had a million and one ideas as to what I wanted to do. From a fireman to an architect, or Doctor to Designer. I was 15/16 when I fully decided that being a chef was the career for me. I worked part-time in the industry to start and fell in love with it. The creativity in food caught my imagination.

Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

A: There is a restaurant called Skosh in York. I believe it’s about a year old but all I hear is great things. Many tipping it for a Michelin star. It would be great to go there soon. They focus on small plates which is a way of eating I really enjoy.

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Q: How important is a Michelin star? a chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that they are removed because of the pressure – your thoughts

A: Michelin commands so much respect in the industry. I think it always will. I strive to achieve great things at our restaurant and if we reach the heights of a Michelin star I would be over the moon! I have worked in a few Michelin places and there is so much pressure. Every customer arriving with an expectancy of sheer brilliance. That’s the pressure, but if that can be coped with there are not many Michelin restaurants that struggle to fill their restaurant diary! I imagine the restaurant in question already has a great reputation and is full but to be given the highest recognition from probably the world’s most famous food guide is incredible, I wouldn’t be turning it down.

Q: What do you think about negative reviews?

A: I have mixed opinions on negative reviews. There’s a lot of chefs in the industry that don’t like things such as TripAdvisor. However, I think a negative review written in the right constructive manner can be useful for improving. Personally, I would much rather deal with a negative issue in person there and then. I think it’s the best way to resolve anything. No restaurant sets out to disappoint a customer and I believe dealing with it in the restaurant at the time is the most appropriate and fairest.

Q: What foods or styles of cooking do you enjoy cooking the most and which do you most like to eat?

A; I have had a lot of experience on pastry sections in kitchens so I really enjoy creating desserts, making bread products and pastries. These are also my favourite to eat! Whenever I eat out I have to squeeze a dessert in.

Q: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

Our Brawn dish is a real favourite. Slow braised pig head, breadcrumbed and deep fried. Served with Yorkshire forced rhubarb and local cider reduction. The Pork coming from only 25 miles outside of the city centre.

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Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

A: I would love to cook with Massimo Bottura. I think he is so creative. From what I’ve seen of him I imagine he would be great fun to work alongside and a lot to learn from him.

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My Favourite Tables – Restaurants I have visited several times and why?

 

Restaurant (1): The Westwood Restaurant, Beverley. Never had a bad meal. Service is always on point and food great.

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https://www.thewestwood.co.uk https://twitter.com/The_Westwood

 

Restaurant (2): Tapasay, I am a massive fan of Indian food and it’s hard to get a good representation of it in our area. These guys smash it.

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http://www.tapasya.org.uk

 

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Head Chef Karl Martin of Old Downton Lodge speaks to Chef’s Table

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Karl has worked in the hospitality industry for 20 years. Starting his career at a small golf club in the heart of England, where at the age of 13 he became KP in the kitchen of the local golf club in Wolverhampton where his father ran the restaurant, followed by catering training at Henley College in Coventry. Since that time he has gained experience working in many different restaurants in the Midlandsworking with the likes of Peter Griffiths MBE, Simon Haigh F&B Director of the Eden Hotel Collection, Adam Bateman Group Executive of the Hotel Collection.

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Karl is now Chef Patron at Old Downton Lodge,  a restaurant with rooms on the Downton Estate near Ludlow.

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“Here at Downton Lodge we never force a dish, we class the food style as natural. Everything has a purpose. Its British country dining with a modem twist, with the emphasis on the ingredients and the marriage between them. We focus on the flavour and believe in treating the ingredients with respect.  Using nature and working with and preserving the seasons. We try to tell a story with our food. Where, nature to plate, is very important along with the traceability of the produce we use in the restaurant”.

 

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Being situated in the heart of a country estate, there is a wide range of produce that Karl has at his fingertips, from wild game to foraged fruits, nuts, herbs and mushrooms.  Giving the guests a unique dining experience where the quality of the ingredients and simplicity of the dish shine through.

The dining room is a small intimate 20 cover restauran, creating a 6 or 9-course seasonal tasting menu that changes every day, using the best of local produce in and around the estate and Herefordshire, Shropshire and the Borders of Wales.


 

FT: Who influenced you in the past? Who influences you now?

 

KM: There are a few, to be honest. My dad was a huge influence on me, I started where everyone should start, on the pots. Seeing the structure of a kitchen from the age of 13 has been a massive help and he was hard on me which has made me tougher as a person.

My two biggest cooking influences are Peter Griffiths and Simon Hauge. I learned so much from them. Focus, determination, drive, respecting people, ingredients and doing things the right way. Whether that be at work or in life. Both are huge inspirations.

Present day, it would have to be Claude Bosi and Gareth Ward.

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Living in Ludlow I won’t go a day without hearing about Hibiscus or a story about Claude. A true legend of Shropshire cooking scene and his food is inspirational.

I ate at Ynyshir Hall 2 years ago and can’t stop talking about it to this day. As a chef, I try to get as much flavour as possible out of the ingredients, Gareth and his team just blow my mind with the amount of flavour in every course. I left speechless!! He has been great to speak to as well, always offering good advice. A true gent.

 

FT: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

 

KM: Restaurant Frantzen in Stockholm Sweden. I follow them on every social media outlet I can. Their food blows me away! I remember seeing them for the first time on a video on Facebook, I just sat there with my gob open! It’s on my 2018 list. Can’t wait,

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FT: If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants/food, what would they be?

 

KM: Fine dining! What is it! Some people have this misconception that some restaurants are “too posh”. I agree to a certain point but at Old Downton Lodge I couldn’t give a shit if they want to wear shorts and flip-flops. FFS they are paying customers. I want people to come here feel relaxed and have great food, wine and an amazing experience.

 

FT: How important is a Michelin star? A chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that they are removed because of the pressure – thoughts?

 

KM: For some people, it’s not important at all, for some it’s a must (die trying kind of thing).

I remember a tweet from Michelin that said “cook for your customers!” A lot of chefs forget that they’re the most important people. I’ve never had a star, so can’t comment on the pressure, but we just try and enjoy it. It’s food at the end of the day. I’m here to enjoy my cooking, not drive my team into the ground. If it happens for us it will be amazing but if not and the customers are happy we are doing our job right.

 

FT: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use produce from your most local supplier?

 

KM: Has to be the 3 day cooked Wagyu Feather Blade from Montgomery (supplied By Alternative Meats) it never comes off the menu! Only the garnish changes. We are very lucky to be so close to such an amazing product/producer! Really is world class.

FT: If you could invite any Chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?

 

KM: Claude Bosi – it would be great  to cook with him in Ludlow and just a very inspiring chef. Marco in his hey day just would be amazing. An absolute hero of mine.

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My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and why?

Restaurant (1): Ynyshir Hall- I’ve only been once but another trip is planned this year. Just one of the best in the UK and is for me soon to be world class.

 

Restaurant (2): Simpsons in Birmingham. I’ve been 3 times 1st was 18 years ago and twice last year. Just keeps going and evolving. It’s a great mix of classic and modern working well together.