Fred Clapperton, Head Chef, The Clock House

The Staff Canteen

Fred Clapperton is the head chef of The Clock House in Ripley.

Formerly Drake’s, Fred won his first star in the Michelin Guide UK 2018 a year after taking charge. Fred joined the team as a demi chef de partie in 2012 and worked his way up through the ranks. In 2016 he was  promoted to head chef when owner Serina Drake took full control of the business and rebranded the restaurant as The Clock House. 

After spending much of his childhood in Nottinghamshire, Fred had worked at a number of different establishments prior to joining Drake's including Bibury Court. Fred’s first taste of a professional kitchen was pot washing in local pubs for a bit of pocket money.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Fred about his produce led dishes, achieving accolades and how tough it is to recruit chefs.

Fred Clapperton - Pork belly%2C Apple%2C Celeriac%2C Alexanders low res
Pork belly, Apple, Celeriac, Alexanders 

Tell us about the team at The Clock House and what you hope to achieve in your role?

I’ve been head chef here for a year and a half; we have five front of house and five full time chefs and we have already achieved so much here. We have the star, three rosettes – we couldn’t really ask for much more! The aim going forward is to maintain those standards, keep pushing and every day we want to be better and better.

What’s been your greatest challenge in your role to date?

Finding chefs! We need chefs who are motivated and dedicated because it’s hard work. The hours are long and we’ve done what we can to reduce them – we don’t open on a Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to try and help with down-time.

How do you recruit chefs?

We have tried working fairly closely with Tante Marie (culinary academy) but getting involved with colleges is something I would like to do in the future. I think colleges and the industry really need to start working together to make sure we’re producing and training chefs the way we need to.

Rising stars  
5 other chefs / restaurants you consider stars of the future
In no particular order
Simon Ulph
Lucio Dilena our demi chef de partie only 18 and owns it.
Charlie Taylor most switched on chef I know
Luke French at Joro
Alex Bond at Alchemillia great to see more and more interesting restaurants appearing back up north
Niall Keating at Whatley manor

Guilty pleasures 
List food items / dishes / ingredients that aren’t considered ‘cheffy’ but you love to eat
Cheesy beans on toast
Tinned rice pudding

Top 5 restaurants
The Bybrook at the Manor House Hotel, Castle Combe
Le Champignon Sauvage

Favourite cookbook
Essence and Beyond Essence both by David Everitt Matthias

Have you seen a change in the industry and is it becoming a better place to work? 

Definitely. When I first started I was working ridiculous hours, it was non-stop and I wasn’t even stopping to eat. So what I’m trying to do here is bring the hours down and make sure what we are asking of the chefs is realistic.

Obviously there are still improvements to be made but I think that is partly on both sides – the industry needs to improve but it also needs to be acknowledged and people need to appreciate what goes into being a part of this industry as a whole. The negatives need working on but there are a lot of positives of this industry which should equally be celebrated.

The Clockhouse Ripley  3 low res
The Clock House

What advice would you give to a young person thinking of becoming a chef?

Make sure you are passionate about it and dedicated – you need to be willing to put in the work, learn the craft and start at the bottom.

Tell us a bit more about your career and where you worked before The Clock House?

I started when I was 15 as a pot wash at a local pub near Doncaster, called The Sun Inn. I was there for quite a long time and waited on tables before moving into the kitchen to cover people when they were off. I fell in love with it and decide to leave my college course at the time, which was architecture, and I went full time into the kitchen.

Fred Clapperton pic
Fred Clapperton 

I realised how creative you could be. From there I went to another pub but decided to look at places with more rosettes so I moved to The Pheasant in Cambridgeshire – they were a winner on Gordon Ramsay’s F Word. I went to a hotel in the Cotswolds and then came here when it was Drake’s. I worked with Steve Drake for five years before I took over the reins.

Talk to us about the dishes at The Clock House?

The food we produce here is purely orientated around great produce – locality we try to embrace where we can but it has got to be of the best quality. If we have to go further afield then we will quite happily. Everything changes seasonally and we have a lunch menu which we try to change more often. I like to use unusual cuts and flavours in all of my dishes.

What’s your process when it comes to creating a new dish?

I start with three or four ingredients or flavours, so a protein and a few accompaniments. I go from there and expand outwards looking at texture and contrast of flavours to get the balance right. I like to try and pick one ingredient as the main focus and use that in various forms to achieve the depth and variety of flavour plus the textures which one item can offer.

Is the menu just you or are the team involved in creating the dishes for it?

It’s mainly myself at the moment but I do try and involve the team and going forwards they will become a lot more involved as we are starting to build a real solid foundation.

Beef at The Clock House 

What does success look like to you?

Success for me is on many levels, of course accolades mean a lot and I’m not going to pretend they don’t but without people in the restaurant, our guests, the regulars who keeping coming back – we don’t have a restaurant.

It’s a cycle really, to get the accolades helps us reach a wider audience and get more people in the restaurant. You can’t really have one without the other.  Equally the accolades are great motivation for all of the team.

You achieved a Michelin star but where do you hope this will take you in terms of your career?

For now I’m fully focused on The Clock House and I really want to cement this as a great restaurant. Going forwards of course, the ultimate goal and reward would be my own restaurant.

More images from The Clock House: 

Fred clapperton 2 Pineapple%2C White Chocolate%2C Chamomile low res
Pineapple, White Chocolate, Chamomile 

fred clapperton Duck%2C Parsnip%2C Bread%2C Medjool Date low res
Duck, Parsnip, Bread, Medjool Date 

fred clapperton gnocchi onion watercress leek low res
gnocchi, onion, watercress, leek

fred clapperton rhubard buckwheat sorrel low res
rhubard, buckwheat, sorrel

fred clapperton Skrei Cod%2C Fish sauce%2C Celeriac%2C Chicory low res
Skrei Cod, Fish sauce, Celeriac, Chicory 

fred clapperton Turbot%2C Cauliflower%2C Field Mushroom%2C Truffle low res
Turbot, Cauliflower, Field Mushroom, Truffle

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th March 2018

Fred Clapperton, Head Chef, The Clock House