Simon Radley, Executive Chef, The Chester Grosvenor

The  Staff Canteen
Simon Radley has a long history with the Chester Grosvenor and Spa dating back to early days as the chef de partie in the late 80s and has seen the place go from strength to strength since then. In 1990, the luxury hotel was rewarded with a Michelin star for its fine dining service and has retained the accolade every year since then. Simon himself, with a wealth of experience in luxury dining from his many years spent working as the executive chef of the restaurant, was honoured for his success by the addition of his name into the restaurant title – now named, ‘Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor’. The restaurant also boasts four AA rosettes and has consistently ranked highly in lists of the top restaurants in the UK. While Simon has experience working in numerous kitchens all over the world, including the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong and the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, he has remained loyal to the Chester Grosvenor for the majority of his career, having devoted over 20 years to the Chester hotel.

In association with Charvet

Simon first and foremost thanks for inviting us into The Chester Grosvenor, wonderful to come and see you. Give us an overview of your day to day role as executive chef at The Chester Grosvenor.

My role here at the hotel really changes on a weekly basis. Predominantly I'll be found in the ‘Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor’ restaurant, which we call ‘SR, for short. But I have to don a different hat on various days of the week depending on what work we've got on in and around the hotel. Functions are a key part of our business and my aim is to make sure that the standard upstairs is the same as it is down here really as far as is possible. So although it’s the ‘Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor’ restaurant your role is still very much ensuring that the food quality throughout the hotel is met. It’s all about exceeding expectations. Let’s talk about the restaurant with your name then. You've had a Michelin star here for 22 years now. Give us an overview of the food style in the ‘SR’ restaurant. The food style is deeply rooted in classic cuisine but with a modern day twist and a touch of humour. Is that from your own background and training? Not particularly, no. It’s just somewhere where you find yourself comfortable and a style that you enjoy cooking. We embrace all new technology and techniques when it comes to modern gastronomy as long as this enhances the product we have established over many years. I guess that's the thing with a hotel, isn’t it, you have got customers that are here for two or three days so it’s very, very important in terms of food delivery that you’re looking after them and giving them what they want and not what you think they want. That's right, there's a diverse cross section of people, and we’ll have people here that’ll stay for three days and we want to keep them in house. We’d be foolish to let them go somewhere else when we can cater for them in our restaurants with their various styles. It’s key to our business that we do keep them here. If people stay on a Friday nine times out of ten they’ll either come into the ‘SR’ for the first meal then La Brasserie for the second meal. It’s all about the overall polish, the professional finish, that we’re trying to offer and make sure that they walk away happy and they’ll come back. And how many chefs have you got in the team? In the team we've got between 26 and 28 but that fluctuates. Does having fine dining, La Brasserie and banqueting, help you in terms of staff rotation in that you can move them around the sections and give them a broad spectrum of skills? Yes it does. It’s key to me. We run an in-house apprenticeship scheme here at The Chester Grosvenor. They are here for 40 hours a week and we put them round all the sections. So they’ll spend three months each in La Brasserie, ‘SR’, banqueting and pastry/bakery. They’re assessed in the workplace for NVQs and it’s entirely up to them how quickly they get through that. Unlike a lot of five star hotels you've got your own pastry/bakery does that also encourage younger chefs to learn those skills as well as part of that training? Yes, I think it’s very important. We're very privileged to be able to offer that training. Very few places these days offer that opportunity in an in-house bakery and patisserie. When people come along it’s nice to be able to put them round all the sections and they’re a polished product at the end of their training. So they have a complete skill set as a chef, whether they stay with us or not. So really if you've got your wits about you and your eyes open you can start as an apprentice at one end of the spectrum and work your way through and cover every aspect of a five star hotel operation. Now you’ve been here 14 years which in this industry is a long time. 14 years now 22. Sure sorry I should have said 14 years this tour of duty… Consecutively yeah. …this tour of duty, how do you keep yourself motivated? What inspires you? What motivates you every day? I think you have to inspire yourself. I think you’re learning all the time and I'm still learning now, every day. We want to do something we've not done before and it’s all about setting yourself a new project. Last year it was ‘The Riedel Cellar at The Chester Grosvenor’, this year we've got a management contract with an outside hotel and that's something else I’m learning. So straightaway there's always something. You have to keep it fresh otherwise as soon as it becomes dull then it’s time to move on. In terms of food inspiration then where do you look for inspiration? Is it ingredients that give you inspiration? Is it other food that you've eaten, other chefs or books? What gives you inspiration? All of these things inspire me but working with great ingredients and like-minded local growers and suppliers inspires me most of all. Last question:  talk us through the dish you’re going to cook for us today please? The dish today came about because we were looking for a classic dish, chicken blanquette, that had some bells and whistles. We wanted to make sure it was a play on flavours that went well with chicken, but cooked and presented with a modern technique, and would eat really well. It’s chicken but it’s chicken with a twist Well listen thank you very much for your time it’s been wonderful to come and meet you and I really appreciate it. Thank you. Pleasure.
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st September 2012

Simon Radley, Executive Chef, The Chester Grosvenor