NEW VIDEO: Jonny Bone, head chef, Core by Clare Smyth

The Staff Canteen

Jonny Bone is head chef at Clare Smyth's debut restaurant, Core by Clare Smyth in Notting Hill.

Having previously worked with Clare at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road, Jonny has been with Core from the opening in August 2017. 

The Staff Canteen spoke to Jonny about working at a three Michelin starred restaurant, the ethos of Core and why it's important to be a mentor to young chefs. 

Lamb, Braised Carrot, Sheeps Milk Yoghurt by chef Jonny Bone, Core by Clare Smyth

Lamb, Braised Carrot, Sheep's Milk Yoghurt

Where did your interest in food start?

I grew up in Norfolk – it’s the place I love.  I always loved food too. We had big family meals all the time, with different types of food because my parents always travelled. But I didn’t really know that that was the career I wanted to be in at first. I went away skiing for a couple of years and worked in a small hotel, which I really enjoyed. That was when I decided that it was something I was interested in. Then I came back to the UK and starting working in and around London, doing smaller jobs. It really opened my eyes as to what’s available in the world of food.

Where have you worked to date?

From there, I went to a small restaurant called L’Autre Pied, where we won the first Michelin star there. After that, I joined Restaurant Gordon Ramsay as a commis chef. It was intense but it was great fun working with Clare and the team. 

I left there as a senior chef de partie, after three and half years, and went to Paris to work in Restaurant Frédéric Simonin, just off the Champs-Élysées. That gave me a lot more of a tie to food in general – seeing farmers and artisan producers, the way they respect their produce and the way everything is presented in the markets. In France, they had this really great work-life balance, so I had a lot more time to enjoy those things. But I really missed London.

Clare called me up and said that Restaurant Gordon Ramsay was having a refurbishment. She really wanted to change the atmosphere and the way it worked, so I came back as junior sous chef and we had a big team. We worked with Matt Abé, who’s now the chef de cuisine, and it was a fantastic time. We had a great team in the kitchen, everyone was striving for the best. After being back, we achieved a score of 10 in the Good Food Guide 2013 and Clare got the Chef of the Year award. We retained three Michelin stars - it was that perfect time. I moved up to senior sous, working with Matt and Clare. Then it was time to make a change so I went and did some stages around the world.

Core by Clare Smyth, chef Jonny Bone
Core by Clare Smyth

Which restaurants did you stage at?

I went to Geranium in Copenhagen, Blue Hill in New York and Restaurant Sat Bains up in Nottingham – John Freeman is a good friend of mine and I really enjoyed it. But I didn’t find a real tie to anywhere that I wanted to work, then Clare said that she was opening her own restaurant, Core, and that there was an opportunity for me to come and be head chef.

How would you describe the food style here at Core?

The food style is very much about nature. It's about the connection with the produce, it’s something that we really enjoy eating and then it highlights the connection to the history of our whole industry. We draw from those three aspects to create everything that we have at Core. It’s that food we love to eat, and hopefully everyone that comes to dine has the same experience and can relate to where we’re coming from.

How does your relationship with Clare work?

I’ve known Clare for nearly eight years now. I love working with her. We have a constant dialogue about the restaurant and about what’s happening in the industry, and that’s where a lot of our ideas come from. With Antonio as well, we’re working together on the pass but we’re always talking too. I’m here every single day working with the guys, delivering the standard and the consistency. Then Clare comes in and she is this amazing catalyst for new things. We talk about something we’ve seen or tasted, or a beautiful new piece of produce that we haven’t seen before, and from there, she really pushes the entire restaurant forward and we work together to deliver that.

CORE Menu dish01 low res
Potato and roe

What’s been your biggest challenge in your role while opening the restaurant?

It was definitely new for me, opening a restaurant. I was in the senior role at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and then coming here was another step up. At Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, we had a very tight team and wherever you moved, you knew what was happening, - you already knew what the next person was going to do. There was minimal communication required because everyone was working together in harmony. 

Then here it was only me and Clare from that team, and Antonio - even though we’ve only just started working with him, he’s got such a great background having worked at Le Gavroche and The Fat Duck, so it was very easy for him to work with us in that way, but then we had eight to nine guys that had no idea of that way of doing things. So it was just getting them all into the systems and the way of working that will produce the food that we want to produce.

As a young chef, what advice would you give to anyone that’s thinking of becoming a chef?

My advice to anyone looking to become a chef in our industry now is to work hard. It’s something that we’re really looking for in the industry. In the top part of the industry, we’re missing people that want to work hard. We need people that are willing to dedicate themselves to something. We constantly have conversations – myself, Clare, Matt, a lot of other chefs – we talk about how being a chef and being the best at what you do is 95% hard work and 5% creativity and inspiration. That is what will get you to where you need to get to be.

TT low res

In history, everywhere you look, anyone who’s got to a great level in this industry has worked really hard. That’s why it’s important – discipline, structure, respect for the industry. Everyone that’s come before us has really shaped this industry – what Gordon achieved, people like Alain Ducasse. We need to respect that and move it forward ourselves. But we can only do that by working hard, attention to detail, improving our craft, that kind of thing.

How do you teach this to the young chefs on your brigade?

Myself and Clare have talked a lot about it and what we want to change is that idea that being a chef is a lesser of the industry. We work really hard and for a long time in our profession, and therefore we should respect ourselves and people should give more respect to the industry.

We really encourage our guys to dress smart - to always wear a clean, pressed jacket, always shaved and to look extremely presentable and ready to work. They get projects every single week to research and present back to the team. Myself, Clare and Antonio will talk about ideas that we have - whether it’s times of year, classical dishes or perhaps famous chefs in history - then we ask the guys to go away at the weekends and come back to us with a presentation. We had a young lady who’d never heard of Paul Bocuse!

This was exactly the kind of problem that we need to fix. Everyone should know about these guys, what they’ve achieved and what they’ve brought to our industry. So she went away, brought loads of print outs for the guys about Paul Bocuse, his history, where he trained, what were his ideas, where his restaurant was in Lyon, the Bocuse D’Or... and she spent about half an hour talking to everyone about it, and they all really got something from it too. That’s really enriching what we do and that’s really important to us.

Jonny Bone, head chef, Core by Clare Smyth
Jonny Bone and Clare Smyth

As I mentioned earlier, we also teach them certain life skills - about how to act, how to conduct themselves, how to talk to people so that they then get taken really seriously in their profession. We had the principal of ballet from the Royal Ballet, who came in to talk to the team about how to hold yourself, how to walk, how to present yourself and the hard work that he had to put in to achieve where he’s got to. 

He said every day he still has to go to morning practice, to be able to perform with such skill and discipline. That’s what we talk to the guys about, about how something they do every day will really determine the end product. So it’s all those small things: about checking the vegetables and making sure that they’re perfect, having that relationship with the supplier, and then moving on to creating the dishes.

What are your future plans? Where do you hope that this role will lead you in your career?

I hope to grow with Core in the future. Obviously I hope that we’re a fantastic success, and that everyone loves coming to the restaurant. I hope it takes me with it, and we work together with Clare for the future. I want to have my own project and my own restaurant one day, but this comes very much from the essence of Core. We’re beginning to see what we’ve started and I don’t know what the future holds but it’s definitely with Core and with Clare.

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Editor 29th March 2018

NEW VIDEO: Jonny Bone, head chef, Core by Clare Smyth