10 Minutes With: Gareth Rayner, The Coach House, Middleton Lodge

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th July 2016

North East born and bred, Gareth Rayner has honed his skills in some of the region’s best kitchens and he is one of several chefs to come out of Wynyard Hall who are currently making a name for themselves. He worked side by side with House of Tides head chef, Danny Parker and head pastry chef at Forest Side, Cal Byerly. Gareth is equally showcasing his own talent at The Coach House restaurant which is part of Middleton Lodge in Richmond, North Yorkshire.

The Staff Canteen paid him a visit and spoke to him about finding his niche, creating a menu and team from scratch and his Michelin goal.

The Coach House
The Coach House

“I always wanted to be a chef and once I got into a kitchen I just loved the buzz and the atmosphere,” said Gareth. “My first proper kitchen was Crathorne Hall Hotel and the head chef was Peter Fleming – he really made me appreciate food.”

After gaining experience with Peter, Gareth opened his own pub backed by his parents but unfortunately he had to close after a year because ‘it just wasn’t busy enough’. He headed back into the kitchen and ended up at Wynyard Hall with head chef Alan O’Cane.

“As I’ve met different chefs I’ve learnt different things from each one, with Alan it was the style of food,” said Gareth. “Pete made me appreciate ingredients and Alan gave me an insight into how adventurous you could be.”

Working his way up the ladder and around the sections Gareth realised he had a passion for pastry saying: “It’s the creativity and it’s so precise.”

He added: “I suppose every chef is a little obsessive to some degree and there’s an intricacy to pastry. I really liked art at school and I think both art and cooking are very similar, you can have flare with them. I really enjoy creating aesthetically pleasing dishes.”

>>> Read: Danny Parker, head chef, House of Tides, Newcastle

 

Fast forward to now and Gareth has landed ‘that perfect head chef job’ he was looking for, taking on The Coach House before it opened in October 2014.

“Everyone who worked at Wynyard has gone off to do good things,” explained Gareth. “The Coach House was a big thing to take on for me, it was really good but also really stressful.

“I had four chefs at the beginning now I have seven and I’m looking to take it to nine when we eventually open for seven days. We are looking at a second restaurant in five years so it’s an exciting place.  The team has the potential to double and to be in charge of that in the future would be a massive achievement for me.”

He added: "We work a four day week but I’ve found chef recruitment hard, there are not enough chefs out there at the standard we need and there’s a lot of competition looking to take on the same type of chefs.

“I’m hoping the guys we’ve got will stay if we show them we are offering a good thing, I think that’s what restaurants are doing now and maybe that’s why chefs don’t move as much as they used to.”

The luxury of a blank canvas is not always something chefs are afforded when it comes to creating dishes and ultimately a menu. Gareth enjoyed the challenge of starting from scratch at The Coach House and he was able to reproduce the ideas he had been collecting during the years of working under other chefs.

He said: “It’s hard to think like the chef you work for, every chef is different and has their own style. The owner had an idea of the concept he wanted here - stripped back and casual. The food has evolved over the past two years to what it is now and we are currently trying to introduce a ‘tasting’ night as with 80 covers it would be a stretch to do a tasting menu every night alongside the normal menu. This is where the second restaurant will come in to play and we’ll have just a tasting menu in there.”

Pork belly, crispy rillettes, pommes

anna, pickled red cabbage, roast apple

He added: “Tasting menus make life a lot easier but I have a Yorkshire based clientele and I have to caterer for what everyone wants – the tasting menu is in development but it’s five years away at least.”

Accolades are very much on Gareth’s radar, he’s looking for three rosettes and says ‘who knows after that?’

“I think every chef would like a Michelin star but my mind-set is not to chase it and if it comes, let it come naturally.

“It’s the customers, ultimately, who let me do what I do in the kitchen.”

The past few years have seen restaurants out of London becoming more prominent and it’s no longer necessary to head to the capital for a Michelin-starred standard of cooking, and as Gareth says the food scene in the North ‘is more exciting than it used to be’.

“The standards are higher and restaurants are flourishing at the moment. The quality has improved with the more casual approach, people now want to go out in jeans and a t-shirt but still eat food at a high standard. It’s become more accessible and the food has become more appreciated.”

>>> Read: Cal Byerley, Head Pastry Chef, Forest Side

 

The seasonal menu at The Coach House includes dishes such as pea panna cotta and wild halibut, and Gareth admits that although he’s inspired by ingredients he’s equally inspired by social media.

“I might see a style or a method getting used and I don’t mimic it but I take inspiration from that,” he explained. “Years ago you progressed using cookbooks now chefs have so much more to see and be inspired by. You can see food from Scandinavia, America, Australia – it’s an instant insight into what other chefs are doing.

Chocolate bar, caramel, peanut

butter, banana ice cream

“I need to keep pushing myself for me but also for the guys in the kitchen, if they stay with me for a long time I don’t want them to go stagnant.”

For Gareth who admits he likes to produce aesthetically pleasing dishes, he’s still focused on taste, he said: “It’s the quality of the flavour for me – it may look good but if it doesn’t taste nice we won’t use it. We still try things but it doesn’t always make it on to the menu.

“The kitchen garden will be interesting once we have the produce coming from there, it will make the boys in the kitchen think on their feet to create new dishes and it’s an exciting addition to what we are already doing.”

Gareth clearly has big plans for The Coach House and his team and with the introduction of the kitchen garden which is a work in progress, his ingredient led dishes can only continue to improve. One to watch, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he has already caught the attention of Michelin.

By Cara Pilkington

@canteencara

 

 

 

 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th July 2016

10 Minutes With: Gareth Rayner, The Coach House, Middleton Lodge