Andrew Tomlinson, Head Chef, Roganic, London

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th October 2012
Andrew Tomlinson is head chef at Roganic, Simon Rogan’s restaurant in Marylebone, London. Simon’s flagship restaurant L’Enclume has swept to mass critical acclaim, leading to his opening of several ‘pop up’ restaurants. Roganic is one such ‘pop up’ restaurant, the first to be opened in the capital, and Andrew has been handed the unenviable task of living up to Simon’s high standards in Marylebone. It is now the privilege of The Staff Canteen to speak to Andrew Tomlinson of the challenges ahead. Andy, talk us through your role here as head chef at Roganics under Simon. Well basically I was with Simon (Rogan) at L’Enclume for three years. I left to go and work at Pollen Street with Jason Atherton and the team, I was there for the opening and in under six weeks I decided it wasn't for me in the end, left on good terms which in this industry is very important. Because you never know when you and Jason might come across each other again. Of course and Simon and Jason have a good relationship anyway and I found out about Simon’s new Roganic  concept in London, and I was up for that. Simon offered me the sous chef job at Roganic, which was brilliant for me. Then nine months down the line situations change, Ben Spalding who was the head chef had started a family so he's moved on to do other things, and I was offered the head chef job which I took and yes it’s been a great challange we’re full every night, customers are enjoying it and we’re getting good feedback, good reviews, the staff’s turned over quite a bit but we’ve got a young team, we have five chefs in the kitchen, five front of house and everyone’s so enthusiastic. Every day is a challenge because obviously the kitchen’s design is not technically brilliant but  we make the most of it. We’ve only got another year left,and we’ll see what happens after this. Hopefully we’ll move on to bigger and better things, bigger restaurant, hopefully still in London, we’ll just have to wait and see. And other than the kitchen what’s been your biggest challenge as head chef? You've moved from sous chef to head chef so what’s been your biggest challenge? The challenges arrive, every day is a different challange. I've never worked somewhere before where there's either something good happens or there's a problem to deal with, but like any job you always come across problems and deal with them the best you can and I'm only 27 years old and I think every day is a challenge for me. But yes I enjoy it otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. I wouldn’t have been working with Simon for just over four years if I didn’t enjoy doing it and working for Simon. And how big an influence has Simon been on you? Very big.like I said I wouldn’t have been with him for four years I mean he's a great guy, looks after his staff, the main thing I love about it is when I first started Simon’s cuisine and approach to food was totally different. It was very experimental and scientific, or whatever you want to call it. So if you had to summarise the food style here at Roganic if you had to pigeonhole it and I know that's difficult what term would you use? That's the thing as well because over the past years I think Simon’s really found his style and me personally I don't think there's anyone in Britain doing Simon’s style of food, every day it changes. Obviously he's got the farm now which he's had for about a year. Hopefully in five years’ time we’ll be self-sufficient and we won't have to use fruit and veg companies as much because 90% of it will come from the farm. That's what we want to do but obviously things change and things happen, but in an ideal world that's what we’d like to achieve, so we can say to customers it was picked yesterday morning and sent down to us the next day and we’re using it and serving it today. So I don't think you can get much fresher than that to be honest. Absolutely. Talk us through menu creation and dish ideas. How does that work? I mean Simon’s predominantly up in L’Enclume. Well obviously Roganic  is Simon’s restaurant, I work for Simon and whatever Simon wants me to do I’ll do. Of course I have my own ideas and I always try and get the guys in the kitchen, where if they’ve got an idea to bring those forward, if they don’t tell me, then we can’t use it or we can't experiment with those ideas. If I come up with an idea I’ll always put it through Simon first, obviously it’s his decision. Simon comes down twice a week, sometimes once a fortnight, depending on how busy he is with other projects, I’ll do a dish up or he’ll say some ideas he wants to try and we’ll work on them together. We never put anything on the menu unless we’ve tried it a few times, and of course eating it. At the moment at L’Enclume they’ve got a couple of guys, there's Dan Cox and Kevin Tickle who basically spend maybe two, three days a week at the farm foraging and in between that they develop dishes, so once they’ve completed a dish it’ll go on at L’Enclume or Roganic or the other restaurants. So it’s a good system that works really well for us. Being a pop-up you’re here for two years what’s yours and the restaurant’s goals? Goal-wise the main things I care about are as long as the customers are happy, the staff are happy and Simon’s happy obviously. I'm not here to win awards, yes we’ve got three rosettes and we won Best Restaurant Square Meal last year all of which are great, but all I want to do is to show what Simon’s about down here because obviously he's been on the Great British Menu and that's made a massive difference I think people are finally realising how good and how different Simon’s  style of food is. So that's basically what we want to do, after two years, we’ll have to wait and see,but at the moment as long as customers are happy and the staff are happy that's all I care about really. So you've had a great career, Andrew Fairlie, L’Enclume, Jason Atherton, Roganics, where in five years’ time do you want this part of your career to take you? Is it your own restaurant? I've been cooking since I was 16, so I'm 27 the main reason I've stayed in place for a year to three years is because I've been quite lucky with the people I've worked with, people who have always been quite a close family, everyone gets on, the food’s always been good, Normally a chef would stay somewhere for a year, move somewhere else, go abroad, and I've always wanted to travel and that hasn’t stopped me wanting to do that, but it all depends on what happens after this year. We’ll have to see. But yeah ideally main goal would be to have my own place I’m not interested in a  Michelin star restaurant I’d just want something casual, a gastro pub or just doing my own food but with no added pressure because there’s enough pressure that goes into running a fine dining restaurant and at the moment. Of course things might change I don't know but that's not what I want at the moment. I had a chance to go and work in Monaco about four years ago on a private yacht but I turned it down to move to L’Enclume and work with Simon which I don’t regret because it’s made things a lot better for me in my career for doing so.  There's still opportunities so we’ll see what happens. Well it’s been wonderful to come and talk to you, fantastic to see your food and thank you for today and I wish you every success. No worries. Thanks very much.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th October 2012

Andrew Tomlinson, Head Chef, Roganic, London