Roger Hickman, chef/patron, Roger Hickman's

The  Staff Canteen
Originally wanting to be a fireman chef Roger Hickman has worked for Tom Aikens twice, first at Pied a Terre and then at Tom’s own restaurant but is now comfortable as chef patron of his own restaurant Roger Hickman’s which in the five years it’s been under Roger’s ownership has cemented itself as the go-to fine dining restaurant in Norwich.Roger Hickman's Restaurant Was cooking always something that you wanted to do? I wanted to be a fireman originally, which was a bit random but you can’t be one until you’re something like 21. I then went to catering college as I was interested at 16, got told I was pretty good at it and then carried it on. What was your first job after college? I worked at a one star restaurant as a commis chef and then I worked for Tom Aikens, twice. First at Pied à Terre as a chef de partie when he was nuts and then again at his own restaurant. I only worked for him for six months at Pied à Terre as that’s as long as you could handle when he was like that.
Guilty pleasures: Chicken pie Sausage roll Muller rice Rum and ice Top cookbooks: Thomas Keller 11 Madison Park Pig – French lady Sat Bains The Square The Flavours Thesaurus -which is all about paring foods, it gives you classic flavour combinations and ideas; it makes you think outside the box a bit.
Nobody knew who he was then and he had inherited a kitchen from Richard Neat so he was cooking at two stars at only 26 years old. He’d just come back from working for Joel Robuchon in a three-star in Paris so he was thinking that everybody should be that level at three-star; so he was hard to work for as he was intense. You must have liked him though as you went back to work for him again? Yeah I got on really well with Tom, he’s tough but he’s tough for a reason. He’s a great chef and someone that I look up to. When did you take over Adlards after David shut it? I was in Leeds for three years, went to Australia for a year then came to Norwich as my friend Aiden Bryne was at Adlards and asked me to come and work for him. He left within a year and I took over as head chef. I didn’t take over the restaurant straight away though, David (owner of Adlard’s) sold it to someone else then I went to work for a year in Norfolk, Holkham Hall estate. It was still run as Adlards at the time but it only lasted a year then was closed; it lost everything then. Then when the building was empty I thought I’d have a go myself which I did and then after 18 months decided to own it myself and buy the lease. Now I’ve been running it for five years. Has re-opening been your biggest learning curve? I opened in February 2010 right in the recession but I felt that Adlard’s never got replaced after David closed it, I knew there was a gap to do something. The biggest transition was going from a head chef to a restaurant owner, you get drawn out of the kitchen so much as you’ve got so much other stuff to do. You have to be really disciplined when you do things in the kitchen, sorting out everybody individually, the managing of people is a real skill; to get the best out of each person. You said previously that you wanted to make your restaurant the best in Norwich, do you think you’ve achieved that?KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA I do feel without a doubt I’ve achieved that, as I’m the only one with three rosettes in Norwich. What do you think of Norwich’s food scene? The city centre had got a lot of chain restaurants and there was a lot when I opened, but there are a lot of independents that have opened up in the past year or so which is great. It makes it more exciting for the food scene in Norwich. How would you describe your food style then? I hate that question, but I would say modern British. I do use a lot of Spanish food but it’s whatever is great and in season at the time, using that Spanish influence. I use local produce, there is some great produce in East Anglia, a lot goes to London but I’m lucky to have this on my doorstep. Do you have a signature dish on the menu? At lot of places keep the menu the same and have the same all the time but I have quite regular clientele so I do change it all the time; so the style is more the signature rather than the escallops and pork belly dish. Roger Hickman's Restaurant interior 1It’s more about using what’s in season and locally where I can, we’ve got some great ingredients up here and I take the best of it and create dishes around those rather than trying to cook something out of season. Who are your biggest inspirations? Thomas Keller is someone that I really admire but I eat out a lot to gain inspiration. I go abroad a lot and have just got back from a trip to San Sebastian which was a huge inspiration as it’s got some fantastic restaurants there. Their approach to food and their quality of their establishments are amazing, from little tapas bars serving great things to Arzak and Azurmendi. Azurmendi blew me away it was by far the best restaurant I have ever been to. What are your thoughts on accolades like Michelin, are you wanting your first star? It’s difficult when you’re outside of London as there is a lot of focus on London these days. In the last two years they’ve only given something like seven stars outside of London. A restaurant can only be open three months but gets a star because of the name attached to it so it would be nice for places outside to get recognised. I’m very busy without having a star though and doing well without one so it if happens it happens. And finally what are your future plans for the restaurant?Strawberry dish 1 I’m in the middle of a big refit after being open for five years, which is a bit of an achievement these days as most chefs move around every couple of years, but I’m trying to hopefully get another venue this year in Norwich which will be more event-led. It will host weddings, corporate events and rooms rather than a restaurant, so I can cater for big weddings without having to close the restaurant. It will be this year but just looking to do something to continue to expand. If like Roger you would like to become a head chef then see our range of jobs here.
In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th January 2015

Roger Hickman, chef/patron, Roger Hickman's