Richard Picard-Edwards, executive chef, Lords of the Manor, Cotswolds

The  Staff Canteen

Richard Picard-Edwards is executive chef for Michelin-starred Lords of the Manor (he left here in November 2016).

He has gained experience with the likes of Simon Haigh at Mallory Court and Hywel Jones, who he cites as one of his biggest influences, and has worked in Bordeaux but came back to the UK to work in Lucknam Park as he couldn’t get a grasp on the French language. All about keeping things simple on the plate Richard talks to us about his style, his plans for the future and why Richard and his team are happy with how things are at the moment.

Did you always want to be a chef? Lords

I always wanted to. I just got the bug for it, my auntie was a chef at the time so I got a part time job and did my work experience with her and it just kind of went on and on; there was nothing else I ever wanted to do.

What was your first position after college? 

After college I was a second commis at The Royal Garden Hotel.

How was that experience?

I did a third year apprenticeship actually, I moved from Huddersfield after two years and went to Royal Garden and did an apprenticeship. I did level three and then once I finished my apprenticeship I was second commis, so I had already been there for 18 months. I already knew what I was walking into, it was an eye opener, especially as it was a much bigger kitchen than what I was used to. It has three hundred rooms at the hotel and you could get a function for 1200, I went from one scale to the other. I think there were 60 in the team, a massive brigade from what I was used to but it was a great experience for me; I stayed there for six years.

Richard EdwardsIs it right that you have worked at Fat Duck and The Square? 

No I have done stages but I never worked there. 

Which did you do first and what was it like doing your stages there?

The Fat Duck was probably first, but that was only for a week. It was a prize of the Craft Guild of Chefs Graduate Awards - you could go anywhere for a stage for a week and I chose Fat Duck. It was really good because they expose you to so much detail. The restaurant was full everyday so you saw everything, it wasn’t like it was dead and you only saw half the dishes. The thing I took from there was the amount of detail that went into everything and there was a reason behind it.

When did you work at Lucknam Park? 

Rising stars?                                                               Adam Reid                                                       Michael Tweedy                                                           Kris Biggs                                                                     Paul Evans                                                                 Andrew Scott                                                           Robert Potter (he got my old job)                                                                                                               Guilty pleasures:                                                   Pizza, I really love pizza, I could eat it everyday!                                                                       Beans on toast                                                       McDonalds                                                          What are your top five restaurants? Ynyshir Hall                                                              The French                                                         Dinner by Heston                                                    Le Pré Catelan                                                               The Woodspeen - John Campbell’s new place

When I left London I went to Mallory Court with Simon Haigh, stayed there for two years and then I met my wife, who is French, and we decided to move to Bordeaux to see how it was, but I couldn’t get a grasp on French. I was there for about eight months before coming home and joining Hywel at Lucknam Park.

How do you view your time working there and how have you taken that and applied that to your work now? 

What helped me was it is focused on keeping things simple, when I went there if I did a dish there may have been 14/15 things going on, Hywel simplified my approach and taught me to focus on depth of flavour. Also more team management; I was running the kitchen in his absence, more man-management and that’s what I have brought here really. To keep things simple, if it doesn’t need to be on a plate why is it there?

Would you say that Hywel is one of your biggest influences? 

I’d say he is probably one of the biggest, I think all of them have had different influences on me. From The Royal Gardens Steve Munkley, who showed me the basics and introduced me to big numbers and big banqueting, Simon Haigh at Mallory Court who gave me freedom to come up with dishes. Each one of them has influenced me in a certain way, I’ve taken things from each but I’d say Hywel most of all as he is the latest and in my most senior role, trusting me with his kitchen.

So talking about your time at Lords of the Manor, do you feel there was a bit of pressure going into a place that had a star, or do you think that as Lucknam has a star that you were used to cooking at that level?  Food 3

I think there was definitely pressure, the chefs before me had had one, but for me I’d just come in and started to cook to the same standard that we did at Lucknam. You don’t know what you are going to get, we were fortunate that the guides came in so soon when they did, some people have to wait years but we were fortunate as it was six months and we kept it. There was a pressure, just thinking of some names that have been there before, Matt [Weedon] had had a star for five years before that and I think John Campbell had it for ten previous to that. I know there was a gap in between but there was definitely a pressure there. I always had a timescale to when I would have liked to achieve it.

What would you say the style of food is? Would you say it is like you said, keeping it simple? 

Yeah it’s simple, focused on the seasons, the normal British with French influences; working with things when they are best in season and working with classical combinations.

Do you try to use local ingredients when you can? food pic 2

When possible but at the same time if I can get an amazing product which is further adrift, I am going to use the better product. I don’t believe that everything should be within, you shouldn’t use something from down the road if it’s not great.

Would you say it is important to eat out a lot, to gain inspiration? 

Yeah definitely, and just kind of see what is out there and what other people are doing. That’s the great thing with social media you can see what other people are doing so you don’t have to eat there. There is inspiration everywhere, Twitter is massive isn’t it?

Talking about your team then, how many are there that work with you? 

Including myself we are ten.

And does everyone get to cook in all the different sections? 

The team generally move sections around every 6 months. We are not open for lunch, so it allows time to make sure the team knows exactly what I want. On a general day I could be on 3 or 4 sections helping the team. Food 1

What would you say your goals are then with Lords of the Manor? Hoping to achieve a second star or happy with the one? 

I am happy with what we’ve got, if anything more ever came it would be great but I’m happy where we are at the minute. I try to instil a work life balance within the team: a happy chef will always work harder for you, but if it ever came that would be amazing.

What would you say has been your biggest learning curve? 

Probably just the realisation that there are not as many chefs out there as there once was, you can’t find really many chefs with really good skills; they are so hard to come by. I think really the industry has got to change and you’ve got to really appreciate and love your staff. Gone are the days when you can be shouting at people and screaming, people don’t need it anymore, in the industry everyone has got to change and make it more of an appealing career; it’s got to attract more chefs….

What would you say that you were most proud of?

The accolades are nice, obviously, but the biggest thing I would say was being able to build a team that I can trust the way that I have. NewFood02_min I know that when I’m not here there won’t be any problems, and that is the biggest achievement really, because when I came here I didn’t bring anyone with me, I knew nobody, it was building it from scratch.

Future plans- you said you are happy there at the moment, what are your plans for the next five years or so? 

To be honest, I’m happy here, I hope it last many more years, in five years I will be pushing forty so I try not to think that far ahead. Life is good, like I say I hope it lasts for many more.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th February 2015

Richard Picard-Edwards, executive chef, Lords of the Manor, Cotswolds