10 minutes with: Craig Sherrington, chef proprietor, Virginia House

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th April 2018

Having trained under Michelin-starred chefs Eric Chavot and David Everitt-Matthias, Craig Sherrington is now the Chef Proprietor of Virginia House in Cumbria.

With a wealth of experience behind him, Craig Sherrington is one of the many chefs that is showcasing Cumbria as a world-class culinary destination with this debut restaurant Virginia House.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Craig about his early influences, working with Michelin-starred chefs and encouraging his diners to change their perceptions of food.

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Chocolate and Blood Orange

Early days

Craig Sherrington’s first experience in the kitchen was aged seven, making biscuits with his mother. He explains how he used to 'pull the cookbooks off the shelf and disappear into the kitchen'. Whilst in the early years, his mother was an initial influence, it was the men in his family who further encouraged this interest in cooking.  He recalls: “The male side of my family has always been the cooks of the household. From my grandad to my dad to me and my mother, we have always been the ones that have shown flair in the kitchen.”

Chance meetings

Despite early promise, Craig’s cookery efforts at school did not always reap the rewards and he received an F in his Home Economics GCSE. This did not deter him and he went on to study catering at college. This led to a chance meeting with Robert Marshall Slater who organised a placement for the young Craig at Le Champignon Sauvage under the tutelage of renowned chef David Everitt-Matthias. He recalls the excitement that he felt when he heard the news, “I had followed David throughout my career and he was an inspirational chef…I thought that this was a guy that I really wanted to work for.”

Influences

David remains a strong influence on Craig’s culinary style, which was further developed working at restaurants such as the Lygon Arms and Lords of the Manor at Upper Slaughter, whilst eventually returning to Le Champignon Sauvage where he worked his way up to the role of sous chef.

Climbing the culinary ladder
Craig then worked for acclaimed French chef Eric Chavot at The Capital hotel in Knightsbridge, where his efforts helped the restaurant attain their second Michelin star. He then worked at the Lakeside Hotel as a senior sous chef where he helped take the restaurant to 2 AA rosettes. This led him to attain his first head chef role at Storrs Hall in Cumbria.

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Artichoke Risotto

Virginia House

Whilst his restaurant Virginia House now an acclaimed restaurant holding 2 AA rosettes and has been included in the Good Food Guide, Craig believes that time, initiative and hard work has helped take the restaurant from it’s uncertain beginnings to what it represents now.

He says: “What we have now at Virginia House is worlds away from where we were two and a half years ago – we have come on so much. Our food is more refined and when we opened (I thought) we had to be everything to everyone, but I decided, no I am going to do what I am going to do and people are now coming to that, not because it’s just another a restaurant.”

Culinary Style

Craig describes his culinary style as classic but with a quirky twist. He says: “I am classically trained through David and Eric - I have kind of taken both of their styles and mixed them together. Then you have my style which is adding quirkiness to the dishes. It’s not what you expect it to be. People don’t know what they are going to get until it is put down in front of them - it’s that surprise element.”

Expect the unexpected
Diners eating at Virginia House are embracing the ethos of Craig’s menu, where you can find dishes listed such as soufflé jam custard which is a Westmoreland smoked cheese soufflé with a parmesan custard and tomato jam. Craig’s menu deliberately doesn’t give too much information away about what the dish entails to encourage diners not to have a preconception of what they will be eating and to have diners “flip their entire thinking upside down."

Mackerel A Taste of Morecambe Bay
Sustainability is a huge part of Craig's menu

Locally-sourced

Whilst quirkiness is a big part of his menu, seasonality and the glorious Cumbrian landscape are also key elements to his food. He takes pride in using local produce such as locally-caught turbot, mackerel, sea bass, lobster and lamb. He says: “My food is very Cumbrian, for the person that is eating my dish, I could take them to where I got the produce from. It was either caught, bred or picked locally – I will get what I can from as locally sourced as close to the doorstep as possible.”

Michelin star?

Is a Michelin star an ambition for Craig? Whilst he has previously said he wants to be the first chef in the Furness Peninsular to attain a Michelin star, he admits that this was a ‘big statement’ and that he hopes he can live up to it.

When asked how he would describe Virginia House, he reflects and responds: “Expect the unexpected - innovative, seasonal.”

We couldn’t agree more!

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th April 2018

10 minutes with: Craig Sherrington, chef proprietor, Virginia House