Adam Smith, head chef, Devonshire Arms Hotel, North Yorkshire

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th August 2014

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

  Adam Smith Adam Smith is head chef of the Burlington Restaurant at the Devonshire Arms Hotel in Skipton, North Yorkshire. At the age of only 26 he has spent most of his career at The Ritz where, over a nine year period, he worked his way up from second commis to executive sous chef. In a glittering career he has won gold in the World Skills in Canada in 2009 as well as winning the Roux Scholarship in 2012 and most recently the UK final of the Bocuse d’Or at Hotelympia earlier this year. Perhaps the most resounding accolade of all though comes from his former boss, executive chef of The Ritz, John Williams, who called him the best chef that has ever worked under him. The Staff Canteen caught up with him to find out what’s next. You won the Roux Scholarship in 2012; looking back, what do you think enabled you to do that? When I entered the Roux Scholarship, it was the first time I’d entered it. I think my time with Mr The Burlington RestaurantWilliams at The Ritz was what gave me that little edge on the others, just because of the style of cooking that the Rouxs are looking for and having done some of those skills previously. Once you get into the final you’re relying on your underlying knowledge of that kind of Escoffier style of cooking. I consider myself quite lucky that something came up that I’d had experience of doing before – the skill of boning out the turbot and making a mousse which was something we did at The Ritz on a regular occurrence. In the final I actually served up my dish 15 minutes late so I thought to myself, “I’ve messed up this one!” But then on the evening of the dinner my name was called out so I consider myself very lucky. I honestly believe that the Roux Scholarship is what’s helped me to be in the position I am today. How did the move to The Devonshire Arms come about and why here in particular? Obviously I really enjoyed my time at The Ritz and it’s a place that will always be quite special to me but I just felt nine years was a long time to spend in one place and that it was time to go out on my own. You win the Roux Scholarship and other things and people have high expectations of you but you’re always questioning yourself and your own abilities, so I thought it’s time to move on and see if I can actually stand on my own two feet. I looked at several places then someone mentioned the Devonshire Arms to me, so I had a look and loved the look of the place and the area; it’s a beautiful part of the world, and the food scene in the north is just going from strength to strength; it’s massive and bigger than I actually realised when I was working in London. The restaurant itself is quite a traditional country house restaurant; it’s got that feel of grandeur about it, and I felt that my food would fit the sort of clientele and that was quite important for me. How would you describe your food style now and has being in Yorkshire affected that? My food style is still about classical combinations of flavours but with a modern twist of presentation, execution and technique. I still use classical combinations because they work; you can’t go wrong with a piece of beef and turnip and truffle and some mushrooms – they all work together; it’s just how you put all those onto the plate and execute it that makes it interesting and elevates it to the sort of food we want to serve in the restaurant. I think my cooking style has changed slightly because it’s important that you cook the food that suits your clientele. At The Ritz people went there because they wanted to eat lobster and foie gras and scallops and fillet of beef and all of those luxurious things, which are things that I love, and some still feature on the menu here. But there are other things which may not have gone down so well at The Ritz but I feel they go down well here because they’re still great plates of food that taste great using the best ingredients I can get hold of. Amedei chocolate sphere, salted caramel, banana and peanut butterMany of the great ingredients that you fight for in London are coming out of Yorkshire anyway – things like grouse which last year was phenomenal and is being shot a few hundred yards from the hotel. What have been the biggest challenges and biggest rewards of running your own place? The biggest challenges are the things you put on yourself. At the end of the day the buck stops at me now, so I don’t have that protection of the layers of management above me. Here all the guests that come in the restaurant know my name personally because it’s all over the website and on the menus, so it’s more personal, so obviously any comments that come, whether positive or negative, you take a bit more personally. I suppose part of the learning process for me being the head chef of somewhere like this is to grow and manage that. But I like to have that personal touch; there’s nothing better than going into the restaurant after a service and talking to a guest who’s really enjoyed their meal – that’s why I cook, because I want people to enjoy it. Earlier this year you won the national selection of the Bocuse d’Or; how did that compare to the other competition wins in your career?Hereford beef Rib, mushroom puree, ox cheek and salt baked turnip The Bocuse d’Or is probably the biggest competition in the world and it’s probably the best because it’s the hardest. I was flattered; I was quite surprised to win the heat in London; there were two other Roux Scholars in the final there with me so it was a tough competition. I’d obviously commied for it twice both for André [Garret] and Simon Hulstone so I think that gave me a bit of an edge on what they’re looking for but it’s the start of a very long road and it’s a tough process of following someone who’s had the best two results for the UK as Adam Bennett has; he’s a fantastic cook and it’s hard obviously to follow on from somebody like that. Marinated Scallop, avocado, radish and pigs head croquetteYou said elsewhere that despite everything you’ve achieved so far, you’re still a million miles away from where you want to be; where is that? I think like everybody, you want to be the best you possibly can; you want to achieve all the top accolades; I would love to be somebody who was considered one of the icons of the industry, names like Sat Bains, Simon Rogan and John Williams. In 20 years’ time I would love for people to look at me in the same light but to be able to get that you have to keep your head down and work hard at it so that’s the main focus for me at the moment.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th August 2014

Adam Smith, head chef, Devonshire Arms Hotel, North Yorkshire

IN ASSOCIATION WITH