'I just want a happy team, cooking good food and teaching the young chefs coming through – and of course a full restaurant'

The  Staff Canteen

With the cost of living on the rise and staff shortages in the hospitality industry higher than ever, Horto restaurant at Rudding Park is offering 50% off food to anyone who works in the industry, every Wednesday until the end of the year.

The Staff Canteen spoke to head chef Callum Bowmer about why they want to do it and what Horto is all about.

Callum has spent nearly his whole career at Rudding Park, only leaving briefly to work at Fischer's Baslow Hall. Starting as an apprentice in conference and banqueting he has since worked in all of the kitchens including The Clocktower.

He became sous chef when Horto originally opened in 2016 and took the reins as head chef in 2019.

“I knew there was opportunity to develop at Rudding and with Horto, it opened the door to progression in my career.”

Originally the plan for Horto was to heavily involve the kitchen garden and when you look through the menu it’s clear it still does. It started as a pop up above the driving range to test its popularity and once the spa was built 9 months later, the restaurant was put in there.

“The spa is busy as hell,” said Callum. “We can do up to 80 for lunch, 50 for brunch, 30 afternoon tea, 40 supper and spa and then 24 for dinner. “It’s constant service from out of that kitchen. We reduced dinner as we had less chefs, but it gives us the time to focus on it, there’s no room for error and we can look at the finer details.”

Callum has experimented with tasting menus and al a carte, even moving to small plates as they came out of covid.

“Last year we brought back the tasting menu, which I prefer. Small plates are great and really accessible for guests, but I personally prefer tasting menu. It’s here to stay now I think.”

He says his style is ‘just British cooking’, they utilise the kitchen garden and if the produce is good enough locally, they will use it.

“We try to get as much of the garden produce on the menu as possible,” he said. “Horto is Latin for garden and what’s grown dictates what we put on the menu but we dictate what the gardeners grow. It works both ways.”

Planning starts in November with the gardeners showcasing new produce the have seen or an ingredient that’s not used often anymore. Callum explained they use a lot of herbs and flowers because they can get it so fresh.

He said: “We are literally picking strawberries to order in the kitchen. This time of year, every single dish will have something on it – the garden is a great asset for us.”

Ahead of coming out of lockdown the chefs spent time in the garden and Callum says they definitely appreciated the ingredients more, he said: “They knew the peas they were pealing they had planted in April and looked after, for example. They had a lot more respect and their base knowledge really improved, especially with the apprentices.

“None of them know what anything is to begin with so it’s great after a few months when I can ask them to go get some tree spinach and they know what that is.”

As Callum started as an apprentice himself, once he became head chef, he knew he wanted apprentices in his kitchen.

“Chefs are so hard to come by right now, for the first time ever we actually have two apprentices in the kitchen – it’s a clean slate with them and you can teach them exactly how you do stuff.”

He says his mindset has changed since Covid, pre-pandemic he would admit he was ‘pushing for a Michelin star’ and other accolades.

“That’s changed for me now,” he said. “I just want a happy team, cooking good food and teaching the young chefs coming through – and of course a full restaurant.”

Callum and the team at Rudding Park have also decided to create an offer just for those who work in hospitality. They want to showcase what they do, and they are offering 50% off food at Horto restaurant, every Wednesday until December 31, 2022, for those who work in the industry.

The Staff Canteen will be exclusively revealing the code you need to take advantage of this offer on our social media, so keep an eye on our Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Linked In.

“The original thought was to encourage local hospitality workers to come and see what we do, I’m not expecting people to come from far and wide but if they do great. It’s a treat and it makes it accessible especially with the cost of living but also, if chefs come and see what we do and think ‘this is a really nice place to work’ that’s good for us too.

“With staffing the way it is, you have to try different things.”

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th July 2022

'I just want a happy team, cooking good food and teaching the young chefs coming through – and of course a full restaurant'