Richard Edwards Park Restaurant Lucknam Park Wiltshire

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th May 2012
Richard Edwards is head chef of The Park Restaurant at Lucknam Park in Bath. Having been initially employed as senior sous chef, Richard was quickly promoted to head chef under the watchful guidance of Hywel Jones. The Park Restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star in 2006 and has won many accolades in the setting of the AA’s 2010-11 English Hotel of the Year. In the quest for culinary perfection, only the finest organic ingredients are sourced and herbs are picked fresh from the hotel’s extensive herb garden. Richard Edwards is one of the bright young talents in British cuisine and is in good hands under the tutorship of Hywel Jones. Today, The Staff Canteen caught up with Richard as this month’s hero of the hotplate.   Richard talk me through your day to day role here as head chef at Lucknam Park. I've been at Lucknam Park for two half years now. I was initially employed as senior sous chef, Hywel Jones' number 2 over seeing the park restaurant. Richi was head chef of the brasserie kitchen so my sole focus was on the main kitchen. Since then I was promoted to Head chef of the main kitchen and with Richi moving on to develop and launch our cookery school, I am now involved in the running of the brasserie kitchen as well as the main kitchen, albeit in a small way. For the past 12 months ive been more actively involved in the financial side of running the kitchens, as well as the practical. Give us an overview of the Park, number of covers, style of food? Style of food is British but it’s underpinned by French cooking, like most places. An average night in the week we do 30 and on Saturday night we do 60. Also this kitchen’s responsible for lounge food, room service and breakfast and breakfast it can be a bit…. So it’s not just the restaurant dinner service? The breakfast is served in the restaurant and the brassiere as well on a Sunday you can have 90 for breakfast. It’s only open for lunch on a Sunday but then it rolls straight to lunch and you can do up to 50 and then at three o'clock afternoon tea starts and again you can do 30. And any money chef’s off on Sunday right? No comment… We're closed Sunday night for dinner so as soon as afternoon tea’s done the kitchen’s stripped down. We're closed Monday. Tuesday to Saturday we're only open for dinner. Okay so 15 months that you've been here then how have you developed and improved as a person and a manager and a chef whilst working under Hywel? I think I've come on quite a bit, when I came I had to learn chef’s style the way he wanted the kitchen to run. The food that I create now you can tell I've spent time with chef. Before I came I'd put ten or 12 components on a plate, where chef would narrow it down and take components off he'd always say, “Why is that there?” or “Justify why that's on the plate?” So basically he's streamlining. So less is more? Yeah definitely and there's more attention to detail. What about how you manage people have you changed?  What was the transition from being sous chef to head chef in terms of how you manage people? To be honest it’s a very similar job, theirs more responsibility with the position, chefs expectations from me are more but the bottom line is I still cook all the time. So it’s a very hands on role? Oh yes.  Yesterday I was on the sauce, today I'm on pastry but I mean I'm on the pass tonight and it just depends wherever I'm needed I'm on that section. Like I say we're lucky that the Park is closed for lunch that will mean I can get round and help everybody and it also frees chef’s time up, with me being over here in the main kitchen he can be in the brasserie for lunch. We're opening up a cookery school, or he might be needed in meetings and that's also good for me because I can concentrate solely on the kitchen and the food. What’s been your single biggest professional challenge whilst you've been here? I'd say the hardest thing is generally staff. As it is with most places. Exactly. trying to find the quality at the right level. You often find a lot of commis’ but trying to find a great chef de partie is not always the easiest thing. Many may call themselves chef de partie but whether they can hack it is another thing. How much importance then, is training and investing in that team and giving them the skills that they need to produce the product that you need to maintain that star? It’s very important. If you’re not training them day to day, hands on, they don’t know what you want. There's no point just me and chef knowing how everything should be done the boys need to understand that also. I said before that's the advantage of not opening for lunch you can spend time with people. Every month we go to suppliers to understand more about the product. We’ve got a veg garden which opened up last summer so the boys can go down and they can see how everything’s grown from seed right through to the plate and generally people take a lot more care of things rather than it coming out of a van Don’t get me wrong the veg garden doesn’t support the whole of the kitchen but people can see and there's a lot more care, and understanding, knowing how things are grown generally. So what’s the aspirations then? What’s the goal? Is it maintaining the star, is it another star? Is it a busy restaurant? What are you all working towards? Well everybody wants to make money so that's first and foremost but you can make money in a dead end pub, for me personally I'm happy with the standard we're at, but that’s not to say we don’t want to progress Of course. That's ambition isn’t it? Exactly and everyone wants to work towards it. I mean we're happy with the level we're cooking to, but we're always hoping one day we could get something a bit more Last question for you then. In the 2 years  you've been here, you've progressed from sous chef to head chef, you’re head chef now in a Michelin star restaurant where is this stage of your career going to take you? Where do you want to be in five years time? I'd like my own star, we wouldn’t do the hours if not, Before Lucknam I was at Mallory Court with Simon Haigh and learnt a great deal from him. Before that at the Royal Garden with Steve Munkley and Norman Farquharson. Being at the Lucknam under Hywel he's worked for Marco and Nico, hopefully it would open doors for me, he knows a lot of people in the industry but ideally, my girlfriend’s French so one day I'd like to live in France. Oh really okay. Before I came here I was in France for eight months. Fantastic. Did a couple of stages. The idea when I left Mallory was to go to France and learn French but I couldn’t get a grasp for it. But now you've just learnt Welsh? Well… slight Welsh. I think working as head chef in a one star restaurant is going to strengthen your portfolio. Sure. And it’s going to add value to your CV and so on and so forth. Well listen thank you very much for inviting me in, great to come and talk to you I really, really appreciate your time thanks. You're welcome.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th May 2012

Richard Edwards Park Restaurant Lucknam Park Wiltshire