Adam Simmonds, Danesfield House, Marlow

Peter Evans

Peter Evans

Executive Chef 18th July 2009

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

This month's Featured Chef...

Adam Simmonds

Head Chef, Danesfield House

Adam, I would like to start by thanking you for agreeing to talk to us today and maybe you can just outline a little bit about your role here at Danesfield House. Yes, I look after the Fine Dining - the Oak Room which is a 30 cover restaurant for lunch and dinner. That, in nutshell, is what I do. OK, and how many guys have you got in your team? There is 6 of us. OK, and you say you're open for lunch and dinner? Yes, we are open Wednesday to Saturday Lunch and Tuesday dinner to Saturday. Shut Sunday and Mondays. Shut for two weeks in August and 2 weeks at Christmas. And let's be honest, you have been fantastically successful since you have been here. You have really put Danesfield on the map food wise - 4 Rosettes and, I guess, the star is the next challenge? Yes, we are pushing hard again for that this year. It was a bitter disappointment for us not to get it last year. Not that you ever expect these things but the boys had worked fantastically hard in order to achieve that. Obviously everyone felt it here, but then you just have to re-group and build again; come back twice as strong. And see where we go. Yeap. We have simplified the food to a certain degree. I think our problem was that it was slightly too complicated; far too much going on on the plate. And what are Michelin saying to you, at the moment? Nothing. Nothing, but they obviously know you are here. Yes, they are aware of what we want to do; they're aware of our aspirations; they are aware of the goals of the hotel and that's all we can ask really. I mean, we just get our heads down and quietly chip away at it. So hopefully in January it will be alright. Yes, the little red book will feature you and the team. Exactly. We are the only 4 Rosette now without a star. Yes, good luck with that. Yes, that's the way it is. You just have to deal with it, when the highs come it's fantastic and when the disappointments come you have to deal with it. Yes, I think if you are always reaching for the top and you don't quite get there, there is going to be an element of disappointment that is the nature of the beast. You have obviously had a hugely successful career - Le Manior, Marco. Who would you say has been your biggest influence? I would have to say it would be RB (Raymond Blanc). Yeap? Yeap, that for me was a finishing school, for sure and I have always said that. And how long were you at Le Manior? I was there 3 years. Right. I came down three positions to Chef de Partie. Adam Simmonds Interview:Layout 1 So you were what? I was a Sous Chef in London. Went there when I was 27 and I was a Sous Chef when I left. And who was the Head Chef when you left? Gary Jones. Between him and RB they are fantastic. Yeap, it's a phenomenal place. It's an institution, but you have to put a great deal into it to get a great deal out of it. Yeap. You know, you can't hide in the corners. Yes, you have only got to look at the chefs it has turned out - it's a who's who of chefs, isn't it? Yes, I think it has produced more Michelin starred chefs than anybody. Yes, I can well believe it. I think there is something on his website and it is just a celebrity "A" list of Michelin starred chefs. But you are right, it is a phenomenal place but it takes hard work. It's a tough place to work. It is relentless. Yes. You can do 100 for lunch and 100 for dinner, that's what we were doing plus the room out the back for 50 and it was a constant, constant push. But to thrive on that; that's why you go there. Do you ever see your self running something like that? In that type of role? Or do you always see yourself in a Danesfield House type role? What are you aspiring to? Obviously, everyone has goals and ambitions. Sure. First of all my goal here is to achieve the star. Yeap. From there, hopefully we can push it forward. Providing we can get the star and maintain the rosettes. I'd like to think we can go further in the Good Food Guide hopefully further than when I was at Ynyshir Hall in Wales. I think we have a fantastic opportunity here not only with the Oak Room but Danesfield House too. The Management are fantastic and they are very, very supportive. Who inspires you now, as a chef? Who do you look at? I suppose, it is some of the Spanish boys"¦ OK, yes. Like Magaritz because of some of their modern techniques. I don't think you can get too carried away with it though. Here in the UK you've got people like Simon Rogan at L'enclume, Daniel Clifford at Midsummer and Shane Osbourne at Pied a 'Terre all those are great Chefs, they are fantastic places. You say you have simplified your food style, how have you felt over the years has your food style evolved? You said before you have worked for Marco; with RB and obviously it is your name above the door. What would you say is the Adam Simmonds 4 Rosette style of food? If you could pigeon hole it, I know it is difficult "¦ Adam SimmondsModern, clean flavours, clean presentation - that's it I think. The style I have is nothing in relation to the training I had, which for me is brilliant. In Wales it was simple or simpler because of the situation we had up there. Here I have a stronger team and in the first 2 years I pushed it further and maybe that's the reason I pulled it back. Because the formula in Wales worked; there is no reason why that formula can't work here. But it is a bit more innovative than it was in Wales, but I think that is a natural progression. Absolutely. Are you happy with what you are doing in the kitchen? I mean, obviously, everyone always wants to improve"¦ it's never the finished article. Like the Manoir is still pushing for the 3rd star - it's been 25 years, but are you happy with the food that you are doing? Yes, I think there is a lot more mileage in the food that we do here - without question. It is just a case of how we develop it and how we bring it on"¦ Yes. ... in order for the guests to understand it because the guests that came when I first started they have to go though that journey along with the way the boys do; they develop and progress. So yes, I am happy but you are never happy to stand still. What we are doing here; right now is great but we can always do more; the dishes develop and become more rounded and better with it. OK. Even when it is on the menu, you will look at it and say "Right, that needs to change" or you develop something. Where do you stand with local? Are you a big fan of "Local"? Yes, to a certain degree. We use a butcher in Henley - that's got all local lamb and stuff like that. But if it dips and troughs, then there is no point because it becomes an inconsistent product and then it is just a nightmare. Yes, my personal perception is that local is becoming a bit of a band wagon "¦ Yes, everyone is jumping on it. "¦ and my philosophy, rightly or wrongly, you should always be driven by quality. Yes, exactly. And if you are getting better quality strawberries from France then get them from France because it is about the best quality. Yes, we get Mangos from Thailand because they are the best Yeap, there are not many in Marlow! (Laughter). That's right, and you compare the Thailand mango with a normal one - they are like chalk and cheese. And we go a long way to try and source the best products. Yes, it is important to support the local people but it it also about getting the right product. Yes, Pigeons, Quails you can't beat them when they come from France. The problem with this country, is that you can't get things with the guts in because of what ever reason so you can't mature them and bring them on and that adds to the quality of product so there is no point. Yes, How do you find being out on London? In that you are, maybe, slightly under the radar of National Press and things like that? Let's be honest if you are just outside that M25 you miss out. I would have to say yes. Do you find that frustrating? Yes, if we could get the press in it could only help - what is that old cliché "Any press (be it good or bad) is good press" That's right, there is no such thing as bad publicity. In Wales we were further out but we got some National Press come in there. Whether that was because it was Wales, I don't know, but it was hard getting them in there. It took a lot of persuading for them to come up. But yes, it can be very frustrating, more so for me and the boys than Danesfield House. The last time you went out, where did you eat? Umm, must have been Sat Bains. Good? Bad? Oh, brilliant. Fantastic. adam-simmonds-7 Are you a good guest? Or are you critical? Oh, no I think you go out to eat; to enjoy it and you pick the places you want to go because that it what you would like to eat. And you respect the guy for his cooking. But then, if you go to a steakhouse you know what you are going to get - a well done steak how ever you ask for it to be cooked!! (Laughter) What's your view on Tasting Menus or Grazing Menus? The reason I ask this, not to name drop, but we recently came back from a demonstration by Marco and he was very much from an era of Gastronomy, where there was maybe 3 or 4 courses and now everything is 15 courses and you get a spoonful of everything - and it's not his bag. He totally respects people and if that is what they want to do that's fine. What is your view on that? I think you need to have a good balance of A la Carte and Tasting. adam-simmonds-9OK, do you think from a chef's point of view the Tasting Menu shows what you can do? I don't think it is anything different from an A la Carte. The Tasting Menu we have here is based on the A la Carte dishes because a Tasting Menu should be if a guest wants to taste a lot of dishes, then they can do so. That's my personal view. Some people are going more towards Tasting Menus only but also good for controlling food costs because of the amount of stuff you have come in because you know that it's going to go. So for a rotational point of view and a business prospective I am sure it is a very good thing. And it doesn't detract from the guys or girls cooking ability. I think you just have to be careful because in a place like this I don't think it would work because it is a Country House Hotel with a Fine Dining Restaurant. That is, maybe, something for us to develop for the future. And where do you sit, with modern verses classics? Everybody at the moment are using jellies; foams"¦ Yes, we do it here, but everything stems from the classics. What motivates you to get in here every morning at 7.30? Is it that star? Yes, it's about achieving or going as far as you can and making the restaurant successful. And what happens in January when you hopefully get the star then? You continue to push forward. You can't just rest and say I've got one star and 4 rosettes - that's it. You do this trade for recognition and a lot of chefs thrive on recognition. Some say they don't, but I think they are lying. Do you think there will come a day, you are still a young man, will there come a day when wife; children - your personal situation, your personal ambition may change and maybe if you get that star you will have different values in life. You need a balance. Can chefs manage to achieve that? Not necessarily. And sometimes you do struggle. It's a tough environment for somebody out of the industry to understand it and that is the biggest thing, because they say "Why are you at work until 12 O'clock"; "Why do you have to go in at 6 O'clock". It is a harsh environment but I think to get a work life balance can be achieved. Adam, thank you very much. Pleasure.

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Peter Evans

Peter Evans

Executive Chef 18th July 2009

Adam Simmonds, Danesfield House, Marlow

IN ASSOCIATION WITH