10 minutes with: James Sommerin

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th February 2015
James Sommerin wanted to work for himself, creating his own food in his own environment, so he left Crown at Whitebrook and took the step to open up his own restaurant and now 9 months down the line after a very busy but successful first stage of opening the restaurant downstairs it’s now time for phase two and to open nine bedrooms upstairs. JamesSommerin005Having always planned to open an establishment with room James said if he couldn’t have had both then there would’ve been no restaurant. He said: “It was a deal breaker so if I couldn’t have the rooms then there wasn’t going to be a restaurant here. “We planned on having them from the word go so this is just an extension from where we are really; this isn’t an afterthought.” James however made the conscious decision to do it in two stages, as he said that he had “got to a point where I wanted to do it for myself instead of somebody else” and that he wanted to open the restaurant first to let it grow rather than opening it all “in a one-r”. He said: “We wanted to open the downstairs first, get that running properly and then introduce the second phase so it was a less headache.” Talking about how it has been since opening nine months ago James explained that it has been tough. He said: “It’s been a real rollercoaster with some amazing highs but also some devastating lows. “It’s very different to just being a chef working in a place; everything boils down to you at the end of the day. It’s been a headache, but enjoyable.”Credit Required Not dwelling on the lows James believes that now being part of local community has been one of the highs for him. He said: “People coming to see what you’re doing and building an amazing team around you. Also just being allowed to get on with doing whatever you want to do rather than being dictated to.” Being your own boss was the main reason for James Sommerin Restaurant opening and is the part of the job that he enjoys most. He said: “It’s not just the menu, it’s how the dining room feels, just to have a bit of my personality around it all rather than just being a chef working in an establishment is great.” However James has had a wealth of experience in order to get to this point, starting from the age of 12 in his Dad’s friend’s restaurant. He said: “I worked part time and it was something that I loved, I loved cooking with my grandmother so it started from that really. But as time went on I knew that I didn’t want to do anything else.” His experience has taken him up and down the country but it’s always been in “stand-alone restaurants.” He said: “I was a trainee in a hotel, I was there for 9 months then I moved away to Scotland, where I was at a hotel for 5 years. RestaurantJS03“They’ve all been privately owned but the hotels where never big enough to have more than one restaurant or separate kitchens or room service; they were all small family run businesses or privately owned. “The likes of The Crown (at Whitebrook) only had 8 bedrooms and only sat 25 people and then the place before that has 12 room, and up to 60 people for dinner. Coming here I’d had enough of doing the small 15-25 covers and wanted to do something bigger.” Having worked in these places the one major influence throughout James’ career was Richard Lyth, he said: “I worked with him for about four years and if it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. “He taught me the important things like seasonality, quality of ingredients and respect more than anything else.” With only five Michelin stars in the whole of Wales James isn’t in a hurry to make that six, he explained: “I would love to get a star again, to have it in my own place this time would be amazing but it’s not the first and foremost thought in my mind.Credit Required “At the end of the day I want a successful business so if it comes it comes.” It is clear that James is focused on making the restaurant the best it can be and aims to achieve this with his “proper food”. He said: “It’s modern, but it’s not deconstructing things too much or being too fancy; it’s about good quality ingredients. “Trends are trends and everybody jumps on the bandwagon and naturally you do picks things from different trends but primarily I do what I want to do; I’m not really bothered about trends I just like good food.” However explained that there is a balance between this notion of proper food and food that people wouldn’t normally eat, he explained: “We do try to be a bit special, we don’t want to serve food that people can cook at home but we’re not reinventing the wheel.” Credit RequiredFood that James says is “90% local produce, which is anywhere within a hundred mile radius.” James’ main goal at the moment is simply to continue what he’s doing, making the Restaurant James Sommerin a success and getting the rooms up and running so that eventually he can be “one of Wales’ champions, in a place where people can both stay over and dine.” The new bedrooms will open 1st March - find out more here 
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th February 2015

10 minutes with: James Sommerin