Graham Squire, Head Chef, The Lickfold Inn

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th October 2016

Graham Squire is the head chef at Tom Sellers’ the Lickfold Inn, Tom is also chef and patron of Restaurant Story in London which holds a star in the Michelin Guide UK.

Tom and Graham are infusing the legacy of the Lickfold Inn with Tom’s unique style and take on British food and Graham has been at the helm since Tom acquired the Lickfold in 2014. He previously worked at Claridges and under Adam Byatt at Trinity, which is where his friendship with Tom began. This talented chef  has a few accolades under his belt including Craft Guild of Chefs’ Young Chef of the Year award 2008 and he was also the youngest ever chef to win the Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of Excellence.

The Staff Canteen spoke to him about working with Tom Sellers, finding his own food style and the difficulties he faces being in a rural location.

Why did you want to be a chef? When did your interest in food start – was it with your apprenticeship or earlier?

Earlier I think, it started with my grandma, she used to make a lot of food at home and I spent a lot of weekends there. She let me stir gravies and all sorts. My grandparents grew a lot of vegetables so I was always interested from an early age. I’ve always wanted to be a chef.

Info bar

Dream restaurant 

After this, I think it would be in the country definitely. I love it and having the beautiful produce and great suppliers on our doorstep, they’re so passionate around here and they’re trying to better themselves all the time. It would be something similar to this but slightly smaller.

Similar food, all comes from the heart and the best dishes any chef can make is what they like to do. It’s quite selfish, you think of what you like to eat and you put it on and hope that people like it!

Dream Brigade 

I don’t know. I’m not really one for watching the trends and people, I’m a bit lost in the country here. I just prefer the younger chefs that come through. There’s nothing better to see then training them up. I wouldn’t want anyone else by my side.

Problem is, some of the bigger names -not all but some – come with a bit of arrogance and a bit of attitude and rightly so, they’ve earnt their time but you wouldn’t want them cooking with you because it would be a nightmare!

You told us previously that the food style at the establishments you’ve worked in has differed massively (Claridges, Trinity)… Is it hard to find your own style or do you think you’ve brought it with you?

You do bring it with you. Obviously every chef’s different with what they want to achieve. My time at Trinity, Adam Byatt taught me a lot about respecting the ingredients. I’m in West Sussex now so I can just go up the road and pick things – it’s a lovely thing.

Tom Sellers - Michelin starred chef Restaurant Story, Ours, Lickfold Inn
Tom Sellers

I think because food and being a chef has become so massive now on social media – you know, people tweet about it, Instagram, nothing’s being hidden. So everyone’s got a lot of ideas and there’s a lot of fads and trends going around that people are picking up on.

It’s for the better but obviously there’s a lot of things that are being copied and the worst thing is that someone copies something and they don’t understand it.

>>> Read: Tom Sellers, chef/owner , Restaurant Story

You do take something with you to a new place and put your stamp on it but again, food is so accessible now that you’ve got to be careful that you’re not putting out dishes that are the same.

Did Tom approach you personally when he bought the Lickfold Inn? What is he like to work with?

I’ve known him since the Trinity days - we were cooking alongside each other under Adam Byatt. I’ve known him for a while, he’s good to get on with.

What are your daily responsibilities at the Lickfold?Are you in charge of the menu or does Tom have an input in to what dishes go on?

Pressed skate, smoked cucumber, borage and scraps by chef Graham Squire, on the menu at The Lickfold Inn

Pressed skate, smoked

cucumber, borage and scraps

Tom is involved with us obviously. We used a lot of his notoriety in the beginning to help promote us a little bit and draw the London crowd. Places like West Sussex, they’re quite tightly knit you know? So we had to start from the Lickfold area and spread that way. But no, he has no input in the menu.

Tom is very ambitious, he has a star at Story, does he push you for accolades at the Lickfold?

Only truly because it’s so rural around here. We’re in the middle of nowhere and I think every guest that dines with us, we appreciate they’ve come for us. You stumble upon us, there’s no other things really around the area that you’d pop into us for. So the accolades would only help to get another twenty percent of interest. Speak to anyone across the board, kitchens work best when they’re full. When it’s busier there’s a better buzz and everyone’s more focused. Trying to keep motivation going when it’s quiet is quite hard.  

Does the location mean it is easier to access sustainable/seasonal produce?

Being a chef and working in London, you see all these ingredients, you pay for them and they’re stunning. Being out here where I can actually pick it and get it myself, it’s phenomenal, it’s a great privilege. But there’s other sides to that – it’s not as busy as London, you don’t get the trade, any food trends are a little bit lost in the country because they’re just not used to it. In London there’s so many different styles and cuisines that people kind of just accept anything you do, in the country you have to be a bit more careful and you have to respect that a lot of people are coming for dinner, not just for a food experience.

halibut, cauliflower yeast, pickled sloes and sea beets on the menu at the Lickfold Inn by chef Graham Squire

Halibut, cauliflower yeast, pickled sloes

and sea beets

Is there a dish you sell out of every time?

There’s three dishes that I’ve had on from the beginning – they’re lovely dishes and it gives us a benchmark for our standards. The most popular at the minute seems to be the scallop dish we have on – cured scallop with Muscat grapes, almond gazpacho, sea herbs and crispy samphire. I’ve had the gin- cured salmon, seaweed and cucumber on since day one.

It’s similar to gravlax actually but slightly less cured with all the gin botanicals and underneath the skin we char a little fatty layer for a barbecue flavour. Then we have the halibut dish on which is pan fried halibut with an oat and yeast crumb, roasted cauliflower and yeast and berries for each season, I pick sloes and elderberries so I use those.

What are your plans for the future – you mentioned opening your own restaurant one day, is this still in the pipeline?

This is the step just before that – I have all of that without financially sinking myself to the ground with those responsibilities. I love this place and I love the area and I’d love to be here for many, many years. I want to see it grow. Here it’s a twenty-year plan, in London its eighteen months for a restaurant to become fully self-sustaining and become popular enough, in the country it’s so slow it can take three years.

That’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed. In London if you change something on the menu or change your style, in about three weeks you can gather whether it’s a hit or a miss. In the country you’re talking two months minimum for it to get out there. It’s a slow process so I’d like to be a destination place in the next couple of years and really keep pushing towards that and do more. I want to get a beehive on the top of the roof and become more and more self-sustaining. The guests love it – we have chickens so they know where all the eggs come from and it’s a beautiful thing!

 

>>>  Read more in our Heroes of the Hotplate series here 

In these challenging times…

…the hospitality landscape has dramatically changed in the last two months, and with that our advertising revenues have all but expired, significantly impacting our business. Despite having to furlough a large portion of our staff, we are still delivering the valuable content and honest information, which hundreds of thousands of you come to The Staff Canteen for. We believe we have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs, are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector.

Your financial support means we remain independent and open to all. We were launched by a chef and remain the voice of chefs and other hospitality professionals.

We need your support to keep delivering the products and content that you love, giving you the platform to share opinions and inspiration. Every contribution whether big or small, means so much.
Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th October 2016

Graham Squire, Head Chef, The Lickfold Inn