10 Minutes With: Adam Woolven, Island Grill

The  Staff Canteen

Beginning his career at Island Grill as an apprentice, it wasn’t long before Adam was heading up the kitchen at the European infused restaurant. Despite a brief stint at the private member’s club, Caledonian Club, Adam returned to the Island Grill kitchen as sous chef before being promoted to head chef status at the age of 25.

A champion of sustainability, Adam strives to create an eco-friendly yet luxurious dining experience for his customers through a modern European menu with British flourishes. Overlooking London’s Hyde Park within the four-star Lancaster London Hotel, Island Grill has already been awarded the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s top Three Star rating along with two AA rosettes.

Growing up in a family that already had ties within the hospitality industry (his father was a chef) Adam found himself helping out his dad in the kitchen when he was a teenager prompting him to follow in his father’s footsteps.

When asked about how he got into the industry, Adam said: “I started helping my dad out at weekends when I was around 13 or 14 so I already had a bit of an insight into the industry so to speak and decided to pursue that after I left school.”

Starting out at Island Grill as an apprentice, Adam gained valuable experience working in several areas of the kitchen before working his way up the ladder to become sous chef. During this time Adam made the tough decision to leave the restaurant which had nurtured his skill and developed his talent to gain further knowledge.

He said: “I left Island Grill for nearly a year to go to the Caledonian Club. Then my old head chef rang to ask me if I wanted to come back and I did and have been here ever since working my way up to become head chef.”

When asked about why he decided to leave Island Grill in favour of the Caledonian Club, Adam explained how Island Grill was severely understaffed which consequently led it to being ‘a pain in the arse’ to which he decided to leave and ‘cut his losses’.

It wasn't long before Adam was heading up the kitchen at Island Grill putting his own spin on the menus, hesaid: “As soon as I got the position we changed nearly half of the menu. I just try to keep it as seasonal as possible.”

Seasonality is very much the ethos, rather than overhauling the menus two or three times a year Adam makes sure they change every two to three months.

"We might change the menu for a month or so in order to capture a few things that have come into season," expalined Adam.  "We are coming to the end of the asparagus season now, we have had that for a couple of months so we will change that. The Jersey Royals are in season so we are using them and all of the English strawberries from Kent.”

A strong focus for Adam is also sourcing ingredients locally. Although they don’t have their own garden or vegetable patch the cheese is sourced from within a 40 mile radius, something that has been cut down from 100 miles since Adam took over the reins.

Adam said: “All the fish is from Kent and the Sussex coast and the vegetables we try and buy as locally as possible but sometimes it’s not as easy as it sounds.”

More unusual are the beehives situated on top of the Lancaster London Hotel, the beehives have been on the rooftop for roughly four to five years and make a great resource for the restaurant, particularly for the basis for Adam’s honey panna cotta dessert. Commenting on the decision to install the beehives on the roof, Adam believes it makes the hotel standout while also helping care for the environment.

 Credited to Richard Twilton

He said: “I think they did it because there was only one other hotel in London at the time who had their own bees but it’s also about caring for the environment and, a hotel with its own bees, it sounds good.”

Alongside locally sourced ingredients, sustainability is also a major factor for Adam and the restaurant. Having attained three stars from the Sustainable Restaurants Association, Adam likes to reduce food miles where he can and can’t fathom why a chef would purchase something overseas when it’s available right on their doorstep.

Adam said: “Why buy something overseas when you can buy the same product from over here? It’s also about keeping your costs down and I think the public these days are really into seasonal and sustainability.

“Other restaurants should be doing it too, you get better produce and it’s from your doorstep.”

Adam cites a broad range of sources for dish inspiration. From going to restaurants to looking up ingredients online and reading books, Adam also says he likes to go through the seasons asking himself how he could make it better.

He said: “I ask myself what different technique can I use? And also I talk to my chefs. They all have good ideas and we bounce off of each other and come up with some pretty good stuff.”

Having received an AA rosette when Adam was a chef de partie followed by a second one not long after, Adam is looking to the future and in time hopes to gain a third rosette if the hotel will allow it.

Adam explained: “I would like to go for the third rosette but that would obviously take some time and it’s whether or not the hotel want it."

By Michael Parker




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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th July 2016

10 Minutes With: Adam Woolven, Island Grill