'It's what we've always wanted'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

The Sommerins are  set to open their new restaurant, Home, on August 18th.

Our guest on The Grilled podcast this week, Great British Menu 2021 contestant Georgia Sommerin told us all about the new Penarth restaurant, what to expect and what it means for the family to be back cooking their hearts out and welcoming guests. 

The restaurant closure happened when the whole industry was trying to pick itself up after the first lockdown, after months of cooking for the NHS, but it was clear to them that they needed to find new premises as soon as they could. And although they opened high-end bistro The Shed in Barry, only Home would be the continuation of Restaurant James Sommerin.

"We were like, 'we want to get back to cooking, to what we're used to doing. It all happened very fast," she said. 

'They both knew that I was going to go into the industry, they just never wanted to say. They just let me choose'

Still full of fond memories of Michelin-starred Restaurant James Sommerin, however, "it's where I fully went into the kitchen," and where she committed to make hospitality her life's work.

While attracting talent is a challenge many operators are facing, Georgia didn't perceive the industry as a negative place to be, quite the contrary.

"I went to college and studied sport science but I only lasted four months because I was so sick of being stuck at a school table listening to a teacher," she said. 

Having worked a day a week at The Crown as a young teenager, "I already had the bug for cooking." 

She offered to help out in the kitchen when her parents went on holiday, "and then I never went back to college." 

Faced with her decision to pursue a career as a chef, her parents "were all for it," she said. "My dad definitely was happy that I was going in to try it, my mum wasn't really bothered.

"I think they both knew that I was going to go into the industry, they just never wanted to say. They just let me choose and decide when I wanted to do it." 

Working with her father isn't the challenge one might expect when thinking of their own family interactions either. "It's really good, me and my dad have a really good relationship, we mirror image each other when we're working so we never get under each other's toes, we never argue.

"I never argue with anyone to be honest. It's just easy." 

Georgia is a breath of fresh air, her experience in hospitality a reminder that while some kitchens are still run like mid-century military brigades, others have moved on and provide a great setting in which to flourish as a chef. 

"There is a lot of negative towards the catering industry, about how hard it is, obviously especially back in the day it was seen as a really tough industry," she said.

"I know it's a hard industry but I've never felt uncomfortable or like I don't want to be in it because it's scary or people are bullying me or bullying other people. I've never experienced that - so I don't think I can pass much comment on that situation because I've never really seen it." 

'Every table has got a view of me and my dad cooking'

However this doesn't mean they haven't had other struggles common to the industry - staffing being one. 

"We've always struggled for staff," she said, and "most places are going to struggle for awhile. I don't think anyone knows what to do apart from hope that there are some people still around wanting to come in the industry."

Circumventing the problem at their new restaurant, she said, "it is pretty much just family. My dad cooking, my mum and my sister are front of house and then we've got another one guy front of house who's been with us for a little while now." 

"That's really about it apart from the odd potwash. We tried to keep it quite intimate," she said, as the new restaurant is called 'Home' and "we wanted people to experience coming to our home because where we're most relaxed is behind a stove, or serving someone."

The family-feeling extends to the layout of the restaurant, which can fit a maximum of 32 covers but is more likely to average at 25. The kitchen is set dead centre in the dining room, Georgia explained, "so every table has got a view of me and my dad cooking. It's a bit like everyone has their own chef's table." 

"We love it, we love the interaction with guests - we've got chef's service, me and my dad serve nearly all the food. It's a nice atmosphere. It's what we've always wanted really." 

An eight-course tasting menu of "just really good food" awaits guests, with plenty of development on previous iterations of their dishes. 

"It's completely different," Georgia explained. "It's still the same style of cooking but we've tried to take it up a notch and make everything ten times better than what it was before." 

Georgia may be the future of our industry, but when asked what the next decade looks like for her, she said, "I don't have any plan for that. I'm kind of a 'live in the moment' person."

As far as Home is concerned, retrieving Restaurant James Sommerin's Michelin star is very important to her whole family, she said, because "we want what's best for the restaurant," "to be at that level that we were before." 

"We'd like to achieve our Michelin star back, keep pushing forward, just hope for the best, achieve what we can and that's all. Enjoy life and that's it." 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 12th August 2021

'It's what we've always wanted'