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Chef features and interviews

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Steven Smith, Freemasons at Wiswell, Lancashire

Steve can we start by you giving us a brief outline, your role, your responsibilities, at the Freemasons at Wiswell please?

Freemasons is a very informal but smart looking country pub/inn, where we operate a restaurant that is more accessible to as many walks of life as possible. So my role here is chef-patron, which means I do whatever is necessary to achieve this. We can seat about 80 covers, upstairs and downstairs, in two private dining rooms. We're a six day a week operation, employing more than 20 staff and the focus is on seasonality.

How would you describe the food style here at Freemasons at Wiswell? If someone comes to the Freemasons what can they expect?

Our style is very modern and very light, but relevant to our surroundings and locality. So there's a nod towards the pub with things like the scratchings and the Sarson's vinegar with the fish and chips. But this is not a retro fish and chips dish, and not quirky for the sake of it, just a little modern nudge, which you can find throughout the menu.

Give us a typical Freemason's dish please Steve.

A typical Freemason's dish would be foie gras, which is poached and roast, the restauranty side of the dish, but served with rhubarb and custard, so that people can associate with a bit of humour and don't feel intimidated when they're eating it.

Foie gras can provoke quite a big debate can't it, you've got the ethical issues. Do you have to worry about that?

Yeah we do definitely.

We've seen a lot of menus where people will just put duck liver on their menu now have you had the foie gras terrorist bit whilst you've been here.

Yeah we have had a little bit yeah.

But that hasn't deterred you?

No because the customers that come in here week in, week out, want to see foie gras on the menu, so that's where it stays.

And that's what you're here for isn't it to look after the customers?

Exactly, yes, and if the day comes when they say, "We don't want to eat the foie gras,"