Dominic Jack, Castle Terrace, Edinburgh

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 13th November 2012

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Dominic wonderful to come and see you here at the Castle Terrace. Give us an overview of the Restaurant Here at Castle Terrace Edinburgh there’s probably 15 in the kitchen and then the same number front of house so it’s a very big team. And you’re serving seven days a week, five days? No we are open five days a week, business is going really well for us we’re doing on average 50 covers per service. It can go up to 65 covers on a busy Saturday? The restaurant’s been open two years, it’s done incredibly well critically. You've got a star, rave reviews, what was the ambition when you opened the restaurant? It was really simple it was just to cook my food basically. To have a busy restaurant, and work hard, but just to have fun. If you had to pigeonhole your food and I know no one likes to do so, how would you describe it? I would say I'm classically trained French but I have a little modern twist on it, I have fun with food and I really enjoy cooking. You’re very fortunate up here in Scotland, you've got a wonderful larder, wonderful produce so does that play a key aspect on your menus? Without a doubt. It is something that I got taught very much when I was in France, was the importance of the produce, if you have great produce you don’t have to do too much to it. So you just keep it simple. That's very much been the French philosophy hasn’t it? Oh yes, I call it the Ducasse school, the chef I spent years with he was the chef at Louis XV and he drummed it into me you get the best quality fish,  and you just treat it with respect, it’s the same for vegetables and all produce,  and then cook it very simply. You often find in England there's been maybe a trend to overcomplicate things because maybe we don’t understand that side of things we’re always looking for extra whistles and bells to add? Exactly yes. For me food should be the true flavour of what it is, there shouldn’t be ten, 15 things going on a plate, just, two, three maximum four flavours on a plate, and that’s the job done. You talk about classical training if you were 18 years old again would you still go back down the classical route? Oh yes. Why? You have to, it’s the roots. From there then you can do anything, not anything but you've all the more scope to…if you know how to make a béchamel or a roux or a hollandaise, I've got guys coming in my kitchen at 23, 24 and they don’t know how to make a mayonnaise. Is that still relevant in today’s kitchen? Oh yeah.From that mayonnaise you can do wonderful things, you can do different things, you can add gelatine or agar agar or whatever to it to make something a bit more modern and exciting but if you don’t know the classics it’s terrible. We have guests coming in and they will ask for a hollandaise or they will ask for a mayonnaise and if you can’t do it, it looks pretty pathetic. So yes, classical training for me is still the only route. Dominic give us a dish off your menu that you're serving now that says what your food style is, if you could just pick one. Perhaps we have a wild salmon tartare and it’s served sushi style, it’s served with wasabi ice-cream so it’s all there almost a sushi basis but just worked and played with a little bit to add a twist. It’s a dish I started when I was working in Istanbul and I used to serve it hot with salmon and it’s been three years in the working and I finally came up with this and I'm very happy with it. What do you feel has been your greatest success in the two years that you’ve been here? I think it’s to have a full restaurant, you know, being booked two months in advance at the weekends. Of course a Michelin star was lovely to get. I think that's wonderful testament isn’t it, in the nicest possible way, bums on seats you must be doing something right. At the end of the day that's what it’s about because if there’s no bums on seats. we’re lost...…especially with 30 staff.  What’s been your biggest learning curve in that two years and I'm sure there's been lots? There's been lots and lots definitely, mainly because it’s my restaurant all the business side is something that I never contemplated and it is pretty scary, cooking’s very easy compared to running a restaurant when you've got staff, you've got wages, you've got to pay everything, the bills it’s so much more than just cooking. Do you not find as chefs we get taught how to cook and we learn how to cook and we progress as a cook and then suddenly we have to become a manager and none of us really get taught that. Not so much a manager because… But a businessman? Yeah a businessman but that's the thing that was something I've never done before. I had to do GPs and keep the figures in-line which is not a problem I can do that but having to be a businessman is an eye-opener to say the least. What one thing would you change if you did it again? I don't think I’d change anything. So you’re happy with what you did and the way that you… Yes I am. What does the future hold for you? It’s a very successful two years, you've got a full restaurant, you've got a star, you’re booked two months in advance, where do you want to be in five years’ time? I’ll still be here cooking every day in five years I hope. But is there an end goal? Is there to get away from the stove, another restaurant? Oh no. I’ll never say no. I’ll never do another fine dining restaurant. This is mine this is where I cook every day… Is that because you need to be here? For me that is vital yeah. Only certain people can get away with it, Gordon Ramsey’s got such a big team, Alain Ducasse, he employs people to employ people, he's that big he can do it. No, me I’ll be here, this will be fine dining, maybe a brasserie or a pub or… That doesn’t need your involvement on a daily basis? Yes that can be very simple but very good and not need me as you say. But if guests come to Castle Terrace they expect that Dominic Jack is on the hotplate? Oh yeah and I will be here yeah. And do you find that you've still got the same passion, energy, drive? Oh 100% yes it grows and grows. Every day my team gets stronger and wetake it to the next level. I keep pushing  and the stronger a team I have, the more technically complicated we can get. It’s the same for the service staff - they’re getting strong so one thing perhaps in the future here at the restaurant we’ll start maybe doing is the guéridon service, for some dishes in the restaurant., That would mean being able to cook the fish whole and serve it just as I did in France I’d love to do that… You've talked quite a bit about France would you say that France has been probably the biggest influence on your career? 100%. I spent eight years in Paris so I spent most of my cheffing time there so yeah. What made you choose France? Was it because it was the gastronomic capital of the world? Yes of course. And do you think that's still true? Yes I do I know there's a lot of other countries that are coming up and are very strong now in terms of their food, but I think France is still, for me the best training, I'm very passionate about France. But if you were 18 again would you look at maybe things like New York or Tokyo or places like that? Most definitely because these places are really kicking, yeah 100%, yeah but it’s still for me France as well, it’s up there with the rest of  the world, you know it has history. And would you advise any young chef to get some overseas experience? Definitely. It’s vital I think. Why? Just to learn a different culture, learn how other chefs in the different countries are doing things, meet people. It’s good and your future if you go back home or whatever you do you'll have met so many contacts and learnt and seen so many different things. And I think that ability to adapt is key as well isn’t it? Yes that’s right  You'll learn how to adopt as you will be out of your comfort zone and thrown in at the deep end you’ll have to adapt. Well look Dominic thank you very much for your time. Perfect. Pleasure to come and talk to you. Likewise. And I wish you every success for the next few years for Castle Terrace. Very kind. Thank you. Yeah cheers. Dream of owning a restaurant like Jack? 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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 13th November 2012

Dominic Jack, Castle Terrace, Edinburgh

IN ASSOCIATION WITH