Adam Reid, head chef at Simon Rogan’s The French, Manchester

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Adam Reid is the head chef at Simon Rogan’s The French at the iconic Midland Hotel in Manchester. Manchester born and bred, Adam started his career at the city’s Bridgewater Hall before gaining experience as a senior sous chef at Brockencote Hall in Worcestershire and the Michelin-starred Chester Grosvenor hotel. He moved to The French in March last year to oversee the opening alongside Simon himself and ever since he has been serving up quality local produce with bold, simple flavours and technical flair in the typical Simon Rogan style.

It was a very quick opening for The French; what were some of the challenges of that?

It was mental!  One of the challenges was that we turned the restaurant round from what it used to be to how it started with us in under six weeks. The idea had only been conceived a week before I got the job and it was open within a month of me getting it. I left my last job; I went up to Cartmel and did two weeks at Aulis. Simon came up with a menu a week after I’d started so I had a week to develop it and we opened three days later. I only met my team of chefs three days before we started! Then unfortunately there were a few casualties in the first couple of months which made it very tough for us but fortunately for me I had the full backing and support of Simon and he treated this as his own restaurant. For the first two months he was stood on the pass. At one point it was Simon on the pass, Dan Cox on the larder, my pastry chef on pastry, my sous chef on sauce and I was doing the veg as well as whatever else I had to do. It was hairy for a couple of weeks but fortunately we had high quality people in the positions we needed them. The most difficult thing was probably the transition from Simon and Dan taking a step back – if you imagine you had a young chef de partie coming in who had to step up to what Dan Cox had been doing on larder, but we got there in the end.  

Was it Simon’s food philosophy that first attracted you to working with him?

Absolutely, It’s really something I agree with – the way he’s sourcing things, the way he looks at the food, the simplicity of it with the technical skills to enhance it; it’s just a very natural way of working and as a chef that had been trained very classically, it was just a very refreshing way of working. I have wholeheartedly risen to it and I probably take it too far sometimes – sometimes Simon’s like: “no it doesn’t always have to come right off your doorstep!”  

What are the challenges of producing that kind of food in an inner city environment? Is most of your produce coming off the farm at Cartmel?

It varies; obviously we’ve only been open since last March. There’s things going on at the farm which dictate what happens, like they’re trying to expand the volume of what they produce, obviously with Claridge’s coming on board. Over the winter we’ve scaled down productivity at the farm with a view to being far more productive in the future but that’s thrown up a bit of a challenge for me having to source things. But I’ve managed to set up some good supply chains with some really good suppliers around the area. I’ve found a coffee roaster who’s literally 30 seconds away from the hotel; he’s set up in a railway arch just down the road – that kind of thing I really enjoy. Sometimes it’s frustrating because we’re right on the doorstep of Cheshire and you might be trying to get some local dairy milk; half the milk in the country comes from Cheshire but you can’t flipping get it because they pack it all up into a massive tank and ship it off somewhere else. But, if it was easy everyone would be doing it, so there’s good and bad sides.  

How does dish and menu creation work between you, Simon and the guys at Aulis?

It’s very flexible at the moment. I’ve built up a level of trust with Simon where I feel I can come up with things. I never put anything on that Simon hasn’t seen and okayed. Six months after opening we came up with a menu together; a year down the line – which is the menu that’s just gone on – I wrote the menu, sent it off to him and he tweaked and changed a few bits and we kind of went from there. Invariably when I come up with a new dish I will fit it onto Simon’s style and I’ll be thinking, what would Simon do here, what would he be thinking? It’s very fluid and a nice way of working for me. I’ve got the support of the person who’s got his name over the door but I don’t have someone needing to tell me what to do all the time.  

What are you looking for in new chefs you bring into the kitchen?

Staying power; I look at all these young guys that have spent six months here and a year here and I think, why would I employ you? Why would I waste six months getting you settled in – which is how long it takes these days at a high class establishment – just for you to bugger off and I have to do it all again? When I’m looking at CVs these days it’s a massive part of the decision as to whether to take someone on; it’s up there with where they’ve worked. It would be more detrimental to their chances of getting a job here to see that they’ve worked at a starred place but only for six months or a year, than that they haven’t worked at a starred place but stayed there for a long time. It’s difficult to find people like that these days. It’s all about the mentality – everyone wants to get there very quickly and they almost treat jobs as stages.  

The race is on to be the first Manchester restaurant to get a Michelin star; do you see yourselves as firmly in that race?

If you chase stars then you’re onto a losing mark already. Obviously we’re the kind of restaurant where those kinds of accolades would benefit us. We gear ourselves up to be able to achieve those accolades and should we get them, it would be a massive boost to our business, but we don’t set out thinking that’s the be all and end all. If you do that you’re screwed basically because you’re trying to fit what you do into what someone else wants. 

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th April 2014

Adam Reid, head chef at Simon Rogan’s The French, Manchester