10 minutes with: Smith & Wollensky

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th August 2015
The Smith & Wollensky restaurant group opened its first steakhouse outside of America this June, giving us Brits a chance to taste its renowned prime dry-aged steaks, quality seafood and celebrated wines. The Staff Canteen spoke to Steve Collins, executive chef of London’s Smith & Wollensky, to find out more about him, his role at the restaurant and his plans for the future. SCOTTISH FILLET - GORGANZOLA CRUSTEDSteve’s passion for cooking started when he was a young boy whilst his father was working at a flavour-developing company. He explained: “My father was in the flavour side of the industry and would bring home new flavours of products that were being developed.” He added: “My first job was in a fish and chip shop when I was at school, I cut the chips and learned about fish, I enjoyed it. I used to go in Saturdays and during the week after finishing my homework.” Steve studied and trained for three years at Stafford College before starting his first job at Truffles, with David Dorricott. Since then he has worked at Quaglino’s, STK and is now responsible for a team of 30 chefs at London’s Smith & Wollensky. He said: “I learned a lot from Quaglino’s because it was completely different to anything I had done before. I had been working in classic cookery kitchens in London hotels, so going to Quaglino’s really opened up my eyes to different styles of cooking and a whole world of flavours that exist.”YELLOFIN TUNA TARTARE Steve explained that having the chance to work at Smith & Wollensky is an opportunity that he just couldn’t turn down. He said: “The job really jumped out at me. It was such a good match for me and what I’ve done before with the knowledge I’ve gained from the London restaurant scene.” To make sure the London restaurant runs parallel to those in America Steve trained for three weeks in Boston. “We are as close as you can get to what they do in America,” Steve said, “Nathan Evans, the Operations Director, was in America for seven weeks to see how things were run to get the management style right. “The main difference between the restaurants in America and the one in London is the accent,” he laughed. Steve explained that Smith & Wollensky selected London as the home of its newest restaurant because it’s one of the most contemporary cities with regards to food and drink. He said: “It’s a good, well received, meat-eating city and our main competitors have been very successful here. London is like the litmus paper for Smith & Wollensky.” S+W002 2The restaurant group is largely celebrated in America and has attracted the attention of many celebrities with Mark Wahlberg and Bruce Willis being amongst the guests. Steve commented: “It’s a renowned steak house in America because of what we do with the beef: we take it and dry-age it ourselves.” He added: “Our style of service and our facilities for dry-aging the beef are things that you don’t usually see in a kitchen. Also, our on-site butcher has a dedicated butchery room.” The Smith & Wollensky restaurant serves imported USDA prime dry-aged steaks alongside British and Irish cuts and the cattle is grain fed and non hormonal. The beef comes into Holland and is then imported to England. Approximately half of the wines on the menu are imported from America. The restaurant group also has it’s own brand called Smith & Wollensky’s, which come from Napa Valley and places in California. Steve explained that the seafood is purchased from a list of suppliers who go out on day boats and Crab-Cake001provide daily fish specials as well as halibut, tuna and salmon, which are permanent members of the menu. Steve said: “We get the highest quality fresh scallops from around the UK. We’re buying Scottish scallops at the moment, some of them just off the Isle of Mull.” He added: “We’re all about buying quality and what’s good at the moment, we look at the seasonality.” The 15,000 square feet area of London’s Smith & Wollensky has two floors that encompass two dining bars, two dining areas, private event rooms and a scratch kitchen equipped with a full butcher shop and dry-aging room. With the capacity to seat a total of 300 guests, the restaurant serves lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday and lunch on Sunday. The décor of the steakhouse parallels the characteristic green and white Smith & Wollensky brand. Its 1920s inspired décor, silver-plated cutlery and welcoming service contribute the restaurant’s elegant, yet not pretentious, atmosphere. interior resizedThe restaurant group is a highly recognised and established one, so what does Steve plan to do next? “To grow with Smith & Wollensky,” said Steve, “I really enjoy this job, it’s a big challenge, it’s a big restaurant but it’s all coming together and the whole team is enjoying it.” He added: “We’ve been open for a couple of months and it’s been very busy and challenging. It has been very stressful but I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it.” By Abbie Cattano

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th August 2015

10 minutes with: Smith & Wollensky