Eric Snaith, Titchwell Manor, Norfolk

The  Staff Canteen
Eric Snaith is the 33-year-old head chef at Titchwell Manor, a family-run boutique hotel on the north Norfolk coast. Eric is a self-taught chef who started on pot wash in the Titchwell kitchen at the age of fifteen before moving away, only to find himself back as head chef. The Staff Canteen caught up with him to find out how it’s going and what it’s like working for your parents…   Titchwell Manor has been a family business since you were a child; was being the head chef always an ambition for you? Not really, I almost fell into it I suppose. I was going to do hotel and catering management but to be honest I was in the kitchen a bit too much and failed my A-levels, and failing your A-levels is what guarantees you being a chef! Then I had the opportunity of going travelling in Australia. I spent ten months in Australia and two months in Asia and although I didn’t get the chance to work in really high quality places I was quite inspired by the produce, the Asian influences and the different look of the food scene over there. When I came back I went to work as a sous chef at a busy gastro pub a few miles from here called the Rose and Crown. Then the head chef was leaving here and my parents needed some help so the timing seemed right to come and take the head chef role. What are the upsides and downsides of working in a family business? For almost every point there is a positive and a negative. There’s not quite the same pressure about hitting targets or getting your job taken away from you, but then equally, to not make money is an even bigger pressure because I can’t just walk away from here after 26 years of work behind it. It’s also nice to be able to work with your parents because you get to see them and be with them a lot but that can also be hard equally. I think the biggest positive is having the passion to make the business a success and that however much work I put in, it’s always for a greater good, giving something back to the family and growing a legacy that will be there for my kids, so it never feels like it’s not worthwhile. Your cooking really embraces modern techniques. Do you think there is a bit of a backlash amongst chefs and food writers nowadays against these methods? For me, whatever the technique, I try to master it and then I have another string to my bow when we’re thinking about new dishes – it opens up more possibilities. I remember about seven years ago before we started using agar, we weren’t able to put a warm jelly on a dish, now we can. It frustrates me a bit when people are just anti anything new and I think a lot of that is the fear of something that’s different from how they’ve been taught. I think that’s what’s given me the freedom to change the way we do something, because I haven’t been taught by anyone. Do you see yourself as actively part of the wider East Anglian food scene? Yes I’m a real believer that the more you support each other, the more it’s going to benefit Norfolk and East Anglia, rather than seeing it as competition. I’m proud of what we do and the standard we do it and I’m quite happy to give recipes and put out what we’re doing, which I do on my blog; there’s no secrets. People like Paul Foster and Mark Poynton have been very supportive of me and they’ve come from much more formal backgrounds working under top, top chefs, so it’s been good to talk through things with them and they’re more than happy to give you tips and advice and that openness is great for the industry as a whole. You’ve done well with awards recently: Norfolk Chef of the Year last year and a recent third rosette; how do you feel about that? I was really pleased with the Chef of the Year and I’m in the final again this year. I really enjoyed the competition aspect of it which I’ve never done before and is a very different kind of pressure to what you get in the kitchen. We got the third Rosette in January which was fantastic. It felt like a real weight off my shoulders. For a long time we felt like we were two rosettes pushing for three, making a point of eating at three-rosette places and feeling that our food was just as good and getting a bit frustrated with it, so it was a real relief to be honest. Have you set yourself any new goals for the future – stars, new openings, media work? I’m pushing on all fronts. I try not to stand still with it at all. In terms of the star, we’ve always tried to cook the best food that we can with the resources we’ve got. I don’t really know what pushing for a star means. I’ve always cooked the food I like and that I would want to eat and we’ll continue to do that and continue trying to improve it in every area. Media-wise we do as much as we can to promote the business and raise my profile because that and a successful business go hand in hand. We’ve taken on a new PR company this year who’ve done a lot for us. I only just missed out on Great British Menu this year and hopefully I might be on next year. Titchwell Manor is a family business can you see the next generation of Snaiths working in the kitchen? I’m hoping that it will be big enough then that they can just turn up to meetings! I’ve got two little girls so I don’t know if I want to push them into the kitchen, although one of them is very strong-minded so if she wants to she’ll end up doing it no doubt! Really we’re just focusing on building it up and having a strong business that’s there for the family in the future. I’ve never looked at it as if we can’t do this or we can’t do that; we push to be the best we can. I don’t see why we can’t be one of the best boutique hotels in the country; that’s what we’re aiming for. See Eric's recipe for Fillet of Pollock here See Eric's recipe for Brie de Meaux Custard here Look at our head chef vacancies to find a job like Eric's. 
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd October 2013

Eric Snaith, Titchwell Manor, Norfolk