Taylor Bonnyman, Chef Patron, The Five Fields

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th October 2016

Taylor Bonnyman is chef patron of The Five Fields in Chelsea which was awarded its first star in the Michelin Guide 2017 as well as achieving four rosettes in the AA Restaurant Guide in January this year.

Taylor came into the industry late, aged 22 he studied History at university before giving cooking ‘one last try’. He started at London’s Roussillon along with spells at Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, Daniel Boulud’s New York restaurant Daniel and Paul Liebrandt’s two-Michelin-starred Corton.

He is not one for publicity so The Staff Canteen were excited to have the opportunity to talk to Taylor about The Five Fields and it’s recent accolades, why he is not interested in social media and his plans for the future.

Taylor Bonnyman and his

team at The Five Fields

2016 has been a fantastic year for you and your team, how do you top a Michelin star and four AA Rosettes?

Obviously there is a lot of room for improvement still, but it’s a nice treat for everyone and it gives us a mandate to carry on with what we are doing. There’s an awful lot we can do much better, so there is still a lot of work to be done.

How was it finding out you had a star live in front of a room full of Michelin-starred chefs?

It was a bit nerve wracking but it was nice, there was a great sense of pride for everyone at the restaurant.

Are accolades something you were aiming for when you opened Five Fields?

Not intrinsically but it’s certainly nice to be recognised objectively by the guides for doing something well. It’s good to be on the radar of customers and guide users.

So, what is the key to your success?

Obviously working hard to continue improving, refining and making things very consistent. But also working with very bright, intelligent and motivated people. We have a standard in our minds we want to reach, we are not there yet, we are some way off I hope!

The success has come steadily and I think it’s good because it has kept the spotlight off us and allowed us to forge our own path without too much scrutiny.

You’ve worked in some impressive kitchens including Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley and two Michelin-starred Corton in Tribeca with Paul Liebrandt. Did you learn a lot from your time there?

Paul is a mercurial, incredibly intelligent cook and he was cooking some very exciting food – I’d never seen anything like it. There was a great deal of thought and consideration put into every element of the dish, deriving a much deeper and significant meaning from his cooking. I think probably it eluded a number of the customers but to have born witness to what he was doing was very fortunate.

Crab and Octopus

with Salsa Verde, Melon

and Heritage Tomatoes 

Working for Marcus was hard but I learnt a lot. I worked with some great people and that’s the other end of the scale, that’s a big restaurant, doing a lot of covers to a very high standard.

Have chefs you’ve worked with in the past had an influence on your current food style?

I think you are always lumbered when you open your own restaurant and you have all these ideas knocking around and they are all other people’s ideas. I didn’t have much experience when we opened and you emulate other styles, when you are emulating you never do it very well and it took about two years to get into the meat of our own ideas and style of cooking. Not that I would say we have a style yet, I think style finds you and it happens over time.

You hadn’t been head chef anywhere before The Five Fields, why did you decide it was the right time to go it alone?

I wasn’t going to open my own place as soon as what I did, but we found a property and my career plans changed quite quickly. It was probably a good thing we didn’t know how hard it was going to be, because we may have shied away from it if we did. It’s gone well but there’s a lot more potential in this restaurant.

You opened three years ago, how has the restaurant and the food evolved in that time and is it still the same concept you initially envisaged?

We never really had a concept, it was interesting, innovative, basically British cooking but within the context of London which is a cosmopolitan and international city. The food is served considerately in a relaxed environment with great service. It’s a conventional concept but if you keep it simple it’s timeless.

The food has got much simpler – not as fastidious, or arduously plated, it’s more sophisticated than when we opened. We try to keep the number of flavours to a minimum.

What are typical dishes people can expect from your menu?

At the minute we have a pumpkin starter on which is essentially just pumpkin and mushroom but pumpkin is a very promising, underrated, unloved ingredient and there is a great deal you can do with it. We serve it with mushrooms in all kinds of ways, it’s called Dead Leaves and we use mustard frills from the garden which act as our leaf litter. So it looks, tastes and reflects late October – it’s really rich and generous and wholesome in flavour.

You start with one ingredient and you dress it up, you also want to convey an outlook on how you perceive food and how you want people to perceive food. You still have to make it enjoyable, you can disappear down the vortex of self-indulgence!

We try to keep it extremely seasonal and without beating on about it I think that is pretty fundamental to a good restaurant in this climate.

You mentioned the garden, do you grow your own ingredients?

It’s a good sized plot in East Sussex, down in a field near my parents’ house. Matt our restaurant manager lives nearby so he collects our vegetables and fruit twice a week. Heather Young, formerly of Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, manages the restaurant’s vegetable garden – she’s a magician, everything she touches becomes verdant and bountiful.

We don’t grow staples like parsley and carrots but we have hundreds of herbs. We have some we don’t really know what to do with, the seasons come and go and we still can’t find something, which is appropriately delicious, to do with it.

You didn’t always want to be a chef did you?

It was a bit of a mistake, I came to it late I was 22 but I cooked threw my early teenage years and I enjoyed it but the lifestyle seemed brutal and I didn’t really fancy it. I studied History at university and I tried to get a nice job as an accountant but I was so miserable in an office I decided to give cooking one last go. It wasn’t any easier but it was a lot more enjoyable.

Did you always want your own restaurant in London and is it tough to be successful in the city?

London is where the people are and to open outside of London without a reputation must be incredibly difficult. We actually suppressed covers here because we wanted to get it right fir 30 people rather than have the wheels come off. We knew we could get those 30 people in and we never went out of our way to promote ourselves and we still don’t, it’s been very organic. There are still a lot of people who have no idea who we are.

You mentioned you don’t promote yourselves, so what are your thoughts on social media?

I opened a twitter account and I never posted – I can’t even remember the password! I think Twitter is dangerous, especially if you are in a bit of a mood and you put something incendiary up there. I’d rather people came in to eat, putting everything on social media means you lose that spontaneity, that gasp moment. Obviously you want the door slightly ajar but you don’t want to let the paparazzi in to photograph everything you’ve cooked.

What are your future plans for The Five Fields?

Our time is pretty much going to be consumed by what we want to do here, trying to get it up to scratch. There are plans for perhaps doing something else but they are distant and something completely different. But the restaurant is still so interesting, its good fun and we feel we can do better.   

 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th October 2016

Taylor Bonnyman, Chef Patron, The Five Fields