Lee Parsons, Chef Patron, The Parsons Table

The Staff Canteen


Lee Parsons took his first step into the industry 30 years ago when he did a placement at a small restaurant at the Pembroke Arms in Wiltshire. He washed pots there for three years before becoming more involved in the kitchen when he started college. He has since worked at Claridges, Le Manoir and worked as a consultant for The Fifteen Group. He now owns The Parsons Table in Arundel serving locally sourced, seasonal food with classic cooking.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Lee about his philosophy at The Parsons Table, why he thinks travelling is essential for chefs and why a foundation of a good kitchen is built on tremendous suppliers.

Ham hock croquettes

How did you get into the industry and what made you want to be a chef?

I honestly don’t know. It was just something I fell in love with when I was at school. Home economics was something I always enjoyed so I think I just fell into it. I think it was the creativity which appealed to me.

You spent eight years with John Williams at Claridges and then moved to Le Manoir, what did you take from those roles?

Claridges gave me a fantastic base and foundation, in terms of style and technique of cooking. Le Manoir was more of a finishing school, I learnt to be more refined and I tweaked my skill set from Claridges.

You’ve spent most of your career working in hotels, why was that?

In hotels back in the day, they had such a structured regime going. You would work on each section and they had a real structure to development and giving you the foundation of knowledge. There were not a lot of quality restaurants around where I was based at the time so I think for me hotels were a great schooling. I enjoyed it and hotels are very diverse.

Can you talk us through the menu and the restaurant itself?

I think it’s a reflection on my career to date, I think the most important thing about food is having a big emphasis on flavours, seasonality, local produce, etc. The menu is definitely a reflection of me and honest, tasty food. It also has European influences and vitality, it’s very reflective of seasonal ingredients.

We want to use as many small farmers and suppliers as we can but the focus is still on quality. Ultimately it’s about your customers, they support the business, they come and dine with you and we have a tremendous amount of repeat customers.

I’d say we are taking away the extravagance of food, the formality of it – the generation of diners now want to feel relaxed. We try to take away the stuffiness and the food ultimately is about flavours and presentation.

We are not a white table cloth restaurant, we want a casual and inviting environment.

Info bar

Top restaurant meals

Le manoir aux Quat'saisons

Restaurant Gary Danko, San Francisco

Le Cirque, Vegas

Balthazar, New York

Pollen Street Social

Five most influential chefs in career

John Williams

Raymond Blanc

I’ve been fortunate to work with some great chefs and mentors but those are the two who stand out.

Top 5 comfort foods

Ice cream

Indian takeway

Fish and chips

Packet of fruit gums

I just like good food – doesn’t matter what it is if I’m honest!

You have obviously travelled a lot in your career, how has that influenced you skill set and your restaurant?

It has enhanced the skills I learnt at Claridges and Le Manoir but if anything it encourages a different style of man management. You see things when you travel, you try things and you do things differently – I think it’s influenced my skill set and made me a bit rounder.

Do you think travelling is important for a chef?

Yes, it develops a chef’s repertoire and opens them up to new cultures, new styles of food, ingredients, and methods. I think it’s an integral part of a chef’s education to move around and gain as much knowledge as they can.

You moved to Canada to work at the Bacchus restaurant in The Wedgewood Hotel and were there for 9 years, what made you want to return to the UK?

Ultimately it was a decision made in regards to family. I’d always wanted to look at opening a restaurant and myself and my wife were both at a point where we both wanted to look at fulfilling this project. It was almost like a scratch which needed to be itched.

White chocolate canneloni

We opened The Parsons Table in December, it’s 30 to 40 seats but getting suppliers for the restaurant has been quite laborious. A foundation of a good kitchen and restaurant is built on tremendous suppliers. We are fortunate that we have now managed to source some great suppliers.

How has the industry changed since you first started out?

I first started 30 years ago and like anything the industry has evolved. Peoples dining habits have changed, there’s a huge emphasis on allergies now and healthy eating. You have to change with the times and being away from the UK for ten years you see that. 

What’s next for you and your restaurant?

We’ve had a tremendous seven month growth here and we want to maintain and develop our reputation. Ideally we would like to move on to a bigger property but you never know what is around the corner.

We want to continue our philosophy which is cooking good, unpretentious food – we want to cook food that we ourselves would want to eat when we go out for dinner. In five years I’d like to be known as a successful restaurateur and chef.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th August 2016

Lee Parsons, Chef Patron, The Parsons Table