10 Minutes With: Damian Broom, Head Chef, Seaham Hall

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th August 2017

Damian Broom is the new head chef at Byron’s Restaurant, Seaham Hall and he is hoping to bring it back to its former glory.

In the past it has held a Michelin star and has had top chefs at the helm including Kenny Atkinson, Martin Blunos and Simon Bolsover.

duck at Seaham Hall by Damian Broom
Duck at Seaham Hall by Damian Broom

After a few years off the foodie radar Damian thinks it is time for a change: “Seaham (Hall) has always been very well known and has had some great chefs working there. It’s one of the best properties in the north and I want to help push it back to the top of the tree like it used to be.”

It’s a big move for Damian as he has relocated from Oakley Court Hotel in Windsor and it’s his first experience of living in the North East.

“It was literally the first time I’d ever been to the north when I came up for the interview! The food scene here is really exciting and it’s coming on leaps and bounds I think." 

Seaham Hall's Michelin star past

Seaham Hall has held a star in the past under Kenny Atkinson who now owns Michelin-starred House of Tides, but it lost the accolade in 2010 after he moved on to Rockcliffe Hall. Damian says regaining Michelin Guide recognition is not the main aim: “We are certainly not cooking for accolades. We are building a really steady, successful business and we are cooking food which people really enjoy. If accolades come then that is brilliant but it’s not at the forefront of what we are doing.”

Damian has changed everything since taking over from the dishes on the menu to the structure of the food and beverage department.

“The menu changes every day,” he explained. “We spend a lot of time working with suppliers finding the best ingredients which are ready. The fish predominantly changes every day depending on what the guys on the boat catch so they may have four amazing turbot one day and then the next day it may be wild salmon.”

What dishes are now on the menu?

Byron's Restaurant, Seaham Hall
Byron's Restaurant, Seaham Hall

As Damian says, the menu is always changing but an example of the type of dishes you can expect include a braised hogget shoulder with marinated saddle, turnips baked in roasted hogget fat, fermented lettuce and a pesto made from nasturtium leaves and white almonds.

He said: “We cook food which is very natural, simple in presentation but there is a good backbone of technical skill to highlight the flavour.”

In terms of his brigade Damian brought three chefs with him and he says he is starting an apprenticeship system in September.

“Local girls and boys can come and work with us for a few years while they are at college and we are hoping to build the next generation of Seaham Hall chefs from there.”

Which chefs have inspired you in your career?

Damian has been cooking for 25 years, a career he says he fell into but after day one in the kitchen he loved it. He has worked in a number of places including Le Manoir and under Paul Ripley but he says the chef that really made an impact was Michael MacDonald who owns the Vanilla Pod in Marlow.

slow cooked rabbit, grilled corn broth and Seaham herbs, Seaham Hall

slow cooked rabbit, grilled corn broth

and Seaham herbs

“I only worked for him for a year but he was ex Koffman, ex Eric Chavot – a really amazing cook and meeting him at that time made me decide which path I wanted to go down.

“Back then Michelin stars weren’t something I really knew about and this guy had come from working with the grand masters and the food he was producing was just outstanding. He also really knew how to push you and guide you – he was really inspiring and I still do things today which he used to do.”

With a wealth of experience and a clear plan to raise the bar for Seaham Hall again, Damian says: "I want Seaham Hall to be recognised now as somewhere that is really good not as somewhere that used to be really good.” 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th August 2017

10 Minutes With: Damian Broom, Head Chef, Seaham Hall