James started his culinary career at the age of 12 working on a Saturday morning in an Italian restaurant in Newport, Chez Chiovanni, after leaving school he started his first full time cooking position at the Cwrt Bleddyn Hotel near Usk.
It was from there, at the age of 16, that he decided to move to Scotland and worked at Farleyer House Hotel under the guidance of Head Chef Richard Lyth, it was whilst being taught by Richard that he gained the understanding of seasonality, quality and the essence of flavour. Whilst in Scotland he cooked at the dinner to celebrate the opening of the Scottish Parliament and was also shortlisted as Young Scottish Chef of the Year. after a few years working in Scotland, he met future wife Louise and after marrying and having their first daughter James decided to move his family returning to his home country- Wales.
Back in Wales in August 2000 he started at the Crown at Whitebrook as Sous Chef and became Head Chef in late 2003, four years later obtained his first Michelin Star, an achievement he is rightly hugely proud of. He retained the coveted Michelin star until 2013 when the “Crown” closed its doors. Recently reopened under new ownership as The Whitebrook
2014 saw James and Louise open Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth. James and wife Louise were determined to make the restaurant with rooms a success and are rightfully very proud of what they and their team have achieved. A Michelin star in 2016, AA Restaurant of the Year – Wales 2016-2017, 4 AA rosettes, Restaurant of the year 2016 for Wales at the Food Awards Wales and Number 34 in the Good Food Guide for 2017, also achieving 5 stars for rooms with the AA and Visit Wales.
” We pride ourselves on being a family run business, with myself heading up the kitchen, Louise front of house and our 3 girls never far away “
Chef’s Table Asked:
Q: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”
A: My late grandmother has always been my inspiration, cooking with her on the weekend gave me my love and passion for cooking and I will always be eternally grateful. So I would have to say my late grans beef brisket, gravy & veg
Q: Have you ever been presented with a dish/ingredient that you just could not eat and where was that?
A: Durian Fruit – tried it in Singapore in 2012. It tasted horrendous, I can’t even put it into words.
Q: If there were a “Fantasy League” of Chefs, who would make up your perfect brigade?
A: Richard Lyth, Michele Roux Snr, Grant Achatz, Alex Stupak, Brett Graham & Eric Frechon
Q: What’re the most overused words on restaurant menus’ today
A: where can I start – Textures of, deconstructed & foraged!
Q: Having worked and trained in Scotland what food preparation or styles of cooking did you learn then that you still utilise today. What was on the menu for the opening of Parliament dinner?
A – oh gosh, butchery.
The menu hmmm, I’m sorry I can’t remember back that far it must be a sign of my age now.
Q: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?
A: Old Cogan Farm Penarth where we get our Welsh Lamb which we serve with Broad Beans and Turnip.
Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?
C – That’s a tough one, I couldn’t narrow it down to 1 person.
My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and why?
Restaurant 1 – The Greenhouse in Mayfair – fantastic cooking, every time we go (and we’ve been a few) staff are all very friendly.
Restaurant 2 – Geranium in Copenhagen, cooking on another level
Gareth Ward is Chef Patron at Ynyshir, a Michelin star, four AA rosette restaurant and rooms which offers dining experiences featuring, in Gareth’s own northern dialect, ‘Alternative British Snap (food)’ packed with flavour. Its location between the Welsh coast and Snowdonia National Park means Gareth can handpick the best ingredients from Wales, and beyond, seeing the whole British Isles as his larder.
Gareth started his cooking career straight out of school aged 16, working in kitchens in the north east before deciding to move to Rutland and take a job at Hambleton Hall. Working in the 1 Michelin star kitchen for five years, he rose from commis chef to junior sous. When he decided to leave Hambleton he moved back north to work at Seaham Hall, which had just gained its star. He stayed here for two years before taking his first Head Chef role at Hart’s Restaurant in Nottingham, a part of the Hambleton family. Whilst here, he was awarded the city’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’ and gained his first 2AA rosettes.
Gareth’s next step was to move to Restaurant Sat Bains, which when he joined had 1 Michelin star. During his time here as Sous Chef, the restaurant gained its coveted second star and came in the San Pellegrino Top 100 Restaurants, whilst being a regular in the top 10 of the Good Food Guide.
In 2013, Gareth was ready to take the reins again himself and arrived at Ynyshir, then named Ynyshir Hall, as their new head chef. In his first full year, he was awarded his first Michelin Star and then gained 4AA Rosettes shortly afterwards, the only place in Wales at the time to hold the accolade, and the first time for Ynyshir. Success continued as Gareth was also noted as the Good Food Guides ‘Chef to Watch’, receiving 7/10 and placing the restaurant in the UK’s Top 50. Ynyshir was in the final two restaurants in the UK in the Cateys ‘Menu Watch’ and included in the Times Top 100 Restaurants, one of only 4 in Wales.
In September 2016, Gareth was made Chef Patron of Ynyshir, at which point he and his partner Amelia Eriksson, General Manager, made the decision to convert from a hotel to a Restaurant with Rooms, renaming the business as just ‘Ynyshir’. Gareth and the team are hugely passionate about using the best ingredients to create dining experiences that surprise guests with flavour on another level.
2017 has seen Gareth and Amelia continue working on the property’s refurbishment, with each stage moving Ynyshir further away from a traditional country house hotel, towards an exceptional destination restaurant with rooms. Favourite tables welcomed Ynyshir to it’s Unique Destinations programme early in 2017 and recently chatted with Gareth and asked the following questions:
What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question” An epic Sunday roast, cooked by me!
Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet) Maaemo in Oslo which was awarded 3 michelin stars in the last guide
How important is a Michelin star? For us and our location, it is very important – there has to be a reason to get people to come out to see us and having a star is the start of putting us on the map. To push forward to progress to 2 stars is our goal so that we could really turn Ynyshir into a destination for food.
What do you think about reviews? They are very important to spread the word and hopefully increase business.
Your Menu says “with a Japanese twist” how is this evident in the food and where did this influence come from. Our menus are very much about being British ingredient led and flavour packed, we just use a few ingredients that are of Japanese origin. These, such as miso, mirin and soy, are used because they allow us to get as much flavour out of the other ingredients, and are so light that you can still eat 20-courses and not be too full.
What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use produce from your most local supplier? Salt Welsh Wagyu Rib with Shiitake
If you could invite any Chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why? Alex Bond (who has just opened his first restaurant in Nottingham called Alchemilla) because he is a complete legend!
Favourite Tables…. Please give us the name of and why you dine there of two restaurants that you have visited a couple of times. If you know twitter, Facebook & web address please include
Alchemilla (www.alchemillarestaurant.uk) because Alex is doing some amazing things with home grown ingredients in a very cool space
Bar Iberico (www.baribericotapas.com) because I love eating small plates of things and the relaxed atmosphere it has.
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About Favourite Tables
Our ethos is about places people love – always has been, always will be.
We know that most people choose where to eat based on recommendations from friends and family, a social interaction – a Social Marketplace
Favourite Tables is just that – our recommendations and reviews are from people who love where they go and go back to.
The popularity of each Favourite Tables restaurant is assured on the Social Marketplace and through the restaurant reviews they receive.
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