Chef’s Table Interview with Gareth Stevenson from Palé Hall
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
|Address:||Palé Hall Palé Estate Llandderfel Bala Gwynedd LL23 7PS|
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