Marianne Lumb, chef patron, Marianne restaurant

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th December 2017

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Marianne Lumb is chef patron of Marianne Restaurant in Notting Hill.

A former MasterChef: The Professionals finalist, she started her career in restaurant kitchens including Michelin-starred Gravetye Manor but in 2000 she embarked on a career as a private chef. After travelling the world cooking for many wealthy and powerful people she decided, in 2013, it was time to open a restaurant.

The Staff Canteen caught up with Marianne to find out why she took the plunge to open her own place, what she thinks of chefs on TV and about her future plans for a second restaurant next year.

MARIANNE RESTAURANT INTERIOR
Marianne restaurant

Why did you decide you were ready to open your own restaurant?

We opened in 2013 and I wanted to open a restaurant because I had just got to the stage where I had kind of done everything else in the food industry and I thought my cooking really deserved it. I’d cooked all over the world but having a restaurant always felt completely out of reach and incredibly ambitious.

I fell off a horse and broke my collar bone which meant I couldn’t cook so I took a job in food development but I really missed cooking, and I got quite down. I decided to hand in my notice and set up a restaurant – I had no money, no backers, no site and no business plan!

Within a couple of days my now business partner heard I wanted to set up my own place and said they’d back me and everything just fell into place.

Do you enjoy the challenge of running your own place?

It’s been one of the craziest challenges, and it’s never going to be easy having a restaurant but it’s one of the most thrilling, wonderful and exciting rollercoaster rides.

Marianne is just 14 covers, how many do you have in your team?

The team for a small restaurant I’d say is even more crucial than for a big restaurant because you all have to get on incredibly well and you are all in this tiny space, under pressure and tired most of the time. We’ve been quite lucky with the people I’ve managed to recruit and at the moment there are six chefs. I come from a private chef background so I don’t have that brigade instinct and it took a while to get it right.

LOBSTER ARTICHOKE
lobster and artichoke

Front of house I’m very lucky to have Roberto Della Pietra he’s one of the best sommeliers in London and we met 10 years ago as part of MasterChef: the Professionals.

So, it’s growing and it’s exciting when you think there were only three of us when we first opened.

Was it tough in the beginning?

I remember some of the first weeks there were just two of us, the kitchen porter didn’t care he didn’t turn up! It was just me cooking and one front of house! The most challenging thing about having your own restaurant is stamina, after the first 18 months of six days which were usually 18 hour days, I’d close on Mondays and just sleep.

It was exhausting, we are looking at a second restaurant at the moment and I would definitely have the team in place before we opened because I don’t know why four years ago I thought it was a good idea to cook on my own.

There is no limit to what you can achieve with a strong team in place. This year we got the Harden’s award for Top Gastronomic Experience which we are still scratching our heads about but we are delighted.

Info bar

Rising Stars / Restaurants: 
1) I am excited about my wagyu suppliers new steak restaurant on his estate in scotland, “The Grill”

2) I tasted the winner of the S. Pellegrino’s young chef completion’s food Killian Crowley from Aniar Galway and loved it

3) Restaurant “Folium” in Birmingham

4) The Wheel Inn, Branston, Leicestershire.

A pub where I grew up in the beautiful vale of Belvoir. I always try and drop in when I’m at home. 


5) Ravinder Bhogal’s restaurant Jikoni

Guilty Pleasures:

1) Prawn Cocktail flavoured crisps

2) Anything with siraccha

3) A really cheap cheese and onion sandwich on white bread is sometimes heavenly to me.

4) James Martin’s virgin trains sausage roll with golden sultana brown sauce

5) Tunnocks teacake

Top 5 Restaurants: 

1) L’arpege, Paris.

2) The Ledbury, London

3) Restaurant Sant Pau, Spain (Carme Ruscalleda)

4) Per Se NYC

5) Gravetye Manor 

Cookbooks: 

Diana Henry’s Roast Figs, sugar snow.
Phil Howard’s The Square's Sweet Cookbook.
Marco Pierre Whites “Wild Food from Land and Sea”
Anything by Elizabeth David.
Coi Stories & Recipes

Clearly your team has evolved but what about your food?

The food has evolved in a massive way, if we start from the beginning we’ve always used amazing ingredients but when you are cooking on your own there is a ceiling you can really hit with what you’re serving. We did al a carte and to do that on your own is a bit of a nightmare, I was never really happy with the quality but now four years later we are all tasting menu, we have all the techniques down and we use things which really support a fast service.
I’m incredibly proud of how the food has evolved, when you look at photos from when we first opened you think ‘oh god!’ But I’m very critical of myself.

souffle

Souffle of grue de

cacao, poached quince

sorbet and crème

de cassis ganache

What about accolades, you mentioned Harden’s, are you looking for more?

I always found it interesting what Phil Howard (Elystan Street) said, he said ‘accolades are for the chefs ego’. I do agree with him to some extent but there are times when staff morale is low, you’re tired, you’ve had a series of bad trip advisors and then an award comes out of nowhere and it’s an incredible feeling. It gives your team a pat on the back and I think accolades are really important, it gives a thumbs up to your investors and your customers are really proud.

Michelin have been very supportive since we opened and we’ve been in the guide right from the word go. We do get asked why we don’t have a star yet but I think it’s important to focus on the positives of the restaurant – mostly we are full and we have a really happy team plus the food, in my opinion, is getting better and better all the time.

You worked as a private chef for years, travelling all over the world – has that had a huge influence on your food style now?

Travelling as a private chef and cooking for someone who is very powerful, very wealthy and who has exquisite taste in food – that’s quite an amazing thing to do. I think it makes you really tune into people’s palates, so a dish may be really interesting but do I want to eat it? We are first and foremost a restaurant where people pay money to come and eat amazing food, I have a lot of respect for restaurants who are innovative and pushing the boundaries but I don’t really want to eat a dead ant!

My food is based around what ingredients are best at each particular time of year, from the surrounding markets. I do cook very much from the French, Italian and Spanish markets and obviously the UK. So, it’s very much European food and at the moment we have beautiful Muntjac, Grouse, and all the seasonal vegetables. We cherry pick the best and I’d say my style is very flavoursome, light, elegant and delicious. I want to cook food which is absolutely beautiful to look at and tastes amazing.

marianne restaurant
Marianne restaurant

You took part in MasterChef: The Professionals in 2009 what are the pros and cons of doing TV as a chef?

There are mixed reviews about MasterChef but it is an incredible competition to do. I really enjoyed it and it was ten years ago but we still have people coming in here and saying ‘ I remember you from MasterChef’. If you’ve not been working for Raymond Blanc, Ramsay or Atherton and then you open a restaurant people can’t pin point you and you are a bit of a wild card.

Opening Marianne it was great that we could talk about me being a finalist on MasterChef so I think TV is good and you can’t compete with being on TV to 5 million people. The power of television is amazing and I do really enjoy cooking and talking! I also think it has made me learn to cope with pressure in a very different way.

How have you found being a female chef and do you think the industry is changing?

The whole female chef thing is interesting – can’t it just be about my food? I think crucially the reason why there aren’t as many women in the kitchen is because it’s incredibly hard work and it’s not the most feminine of jobs. But as a female chef, I would say I’ve always been incredibly well looked after. I don’t think being a woman is at all relevant anymore, in my kitchen I’ve had lots of women working in there but equally I’ve had lots of men.

At the end of the day in a small kitchen it’s about finding someone who is really dedicated and of the same mind-set as you – it doesn’t matter if they are male or female.

mullet
Mullet

I think Angela Hartnett paved the way and that’s why she will always be a massive idol of mine and yes kitchens have always been male dominated but that is changing at a rate of knots. I’m excited to see what the industry will look like in ten years time.

What are your future plans?

The past four years have been completely about Marianne restaurant and I haven’t really done anything else so, I’m seriously looking at a second restaurant and it’s not in the UK. It will be bigger than this place, I’m not going to get smaller! It will be in a place where I’m absolutely crazy about the terroir and everything which grows around it. Equally I want Marianne restaurant to go from strength to strength. We are still evolving things here and it’s exciting times.

Hopefully I can inspire the next generation of females, it is a wonderful career to have and I still get a wonderful buzz when I’m in the kitchen and I look through into the restaurant and I can see people eating and having a wonderful time.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th December 2017

Marianne Lumb, chef patron, Marianne restaurant

IN ASSOCIATION WITH