Fernando Stovell, Chef Patron, Stovell's

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th June 2016

Fernando Stovell is the Chef Patron of Stovell’s based in Chobham Surrey. As a young teenager Fernando got his first taste for the hospitality industry by helping out his mum at the British Embassy in Mexico where he was born and raised. Unbeknownst to his family, Fernando moved to London in 1997 to enrol at Westminster college to study International Relations. After finishing his studies Fernando worked in various kitchen throughout London including the Michelin-starred Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge and later working as head chef for both the Wellington Club and Cuckoo Club before opening Stovell’s in 2012.

The Staff Canteen caught up with Fernando to talk indigenous ingredients, wood fire grills and distilling his own brand of gin.

Stovell's

You opened Stovell’s in 2012, did you always want to have your own restaurant?

Yes, always. By the age of 15 I was helping my mum out at the British Embassy in Mexico. This first taste in the hospitality industry ignited my passion for both food, and service. After working for other people for a large part of my career I felt that it was time for me to be my own boss and to have complete creative freedom.

How did you get into the industry?

I was born and raised in Mexico. My mum was from Farnham and my dad was from Mexico City. After studying international relations at University I went to London in 1997 (unbeknownst to his family) and enrolled at a catering course at Westminster College to follow my passion for cooking.

From then on I worked my way up through various leading London kitchens including the Michelin-starred Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge, learning as much as I could from some incredible mentors. I then went on to work at both the Wellington Club and Cuckoo Club as the head chef and after a couple of years of searching for the right venue I became the Chef Patron of my own restaurant, Stovell's.

Having worked in and consulted for various establishments throughout Europe and South America, how has this influenced your dishes at Stovell’s?

Everywhere I go, I am always inspired by the diversity of dishes and produce that exists. We are extremely lucky to have some

Deer from the Royal parks -

Fallow deer served two in sequence

incredible produce within the UK, and I am always keen to showcase these. However, there are some amazing markets I’m keen to visit such as Rungis, in France Boqueria in Barcelona, Ostermalms Saluhall in Stockholm and Mercado de San Juan in Mexico City.

We continue to buy in, arguably the best ham in the world, from Jabugo in Spain which we hand carve to order in the restaurant by one of our chefs.

How have you used those influences to bring together unique dishes that are bespoke to your menu and the restaurant?

The indigenous ingredients that can be found in Central and South America are all very unique, Huitlacoche for example is a delicious fungus that grows on corn and is a delicacy in Mexico which I also feature on my own menu.

It certainly helps that people in England are becoming increasingly open minded, and inquisitive about ingredients so I'm always keen to translate my travel experiences into my dishes.

Off the menu

http://www.stovells.com

Starters

QUAIL

Barbecued Anjou Quail, Quince & Chanterelles

ASTERACEAE

Jerusalem Artichokes Grilled in Olive Wood & Basted in Aged Lamb Fat, Roasted Almonds

Mains

FUNGI

Huitlacoche Ravioli, Poblano & Cheese Curds

DEER

From The Royal Parks - Fallow Deer Served Two Parts, in Sequence

Desserts

RHUBARB

Wood Roasted Rhubarb in the Earth they were Grown in & Custard

CITRUS

Grapefruit,  Lemon Curd, Mandarin Sorbet

Favourite ingredients

Lemons  they have so many uses, from intensifying the flavours to stopping oxidisation of ingredients as well as neutralising the odours

Crab , simply cooked

Octopus, grilled

Any Fish that can be grilled

Chilles all sorts have different functions. We use a great variety at Stovells

Signature dishes

FISH

Fish of the Day with Guajillo & Ancho Chile, Grilled Over Citrus Wood

BEEF

Char-Grilled with Vine Embers Grain Fed Lake District Beef Wellington, Brassicas, Truffle Mash & Oxtail Jus

Where else do you find inspiration for dish creation?

My kind of cooking involves a lot more than flicking a gas switch. It goes beyond the comforts of recipes and exact temperatures and measurements to a place heavily reliant on human instinct. I favour cooking over wood coals, inspired by the kitchen of my dear friend, Victor in Etxebarri, the celebrated wood-fired restaurant in the Spanish Basque Country.

How often do you change your menus?

In order to maintain consistency the menu changes according to seasons. However, we do have offer two specials on a daily basis which has proven to be very popular amongst our locals.

How reliant are you on the change in seasons and what produce is available?

I am, without a doubt, 100% pro season. If there is an ingredient that is not in season but it tastes amazing, why not celebrate it?

Foraged ingredients are mentioned a lot in your menu, how are they foraged?

We still use Chobham woods. We have three certified suppliers who supply the majority of the produce we use. We are also starting to grow a few ingredients such as stonecrop, nettles and ramsons.

How do you source your other ingredients?

We have 32 different suppliers. We are very particular with the ingredients we like to use which doesn’t please out accountant!

On your a la carte menu it says you use a wood-fire grill for your meat dishes, what difference does this make to the taste and flavour?

Wood is an ingredient in its own right with unique characteristics (determined by type of tree, where it was grown, its age, how long it's been dried, etc.) that come through the burning embers to lend subtle aromas to each dish.

Some of my favourite woods are fruit trees because of how they can underline delicate things that can be grilled. I also have a great love of grapevines, they burn with a very intense flavour over a short period of time which is great for meat.

What is your favourite dish on the menu and why?

They are all so different, and it depends on how your palate feels on that day. Today is sunny and I’m being interviewed so my palate is favouring wine barrels grilled Quail, Corn and St Georges Mushroom to keep the seasonality.

You distil your own gin, how did this come about?

We've been making our own barrel aged cocktails and using foraged ingredients in both our food and our drinks ever since we opened. Gin is a beautifully diverse category of spirit- aside from the Juniper, pretty much any other herb, roots, flower, spice or fruit can go into the botanical mix.

The idea was suggested on a whim over dinner on a night out and before we knew it, we'd applied for our licences (which came rather quickly) and we were experimenting with different flavours.

It took us about a year after experimenting with every foraged ingredient under the Sun, to settle on our final ensemble of botanicals. The use of honey was chosen at 4am one Saturday evening after service - after a long conversation about Old Tom style gins, a historical, rooty, lightly sweet style gin that is sadly now much rarer than it used to be. We have a friend who is an amateur beekeeper and his honey just rounds everything off adding both body and a gentle sweetness.

We were very keen to create our own gin which showcased the array of produce available in the English countryside rather than going down the more traditional route of using exotic fruits, roots and spices. Hence why we use Sweet Flag root instead of Orris Root as a base note, Lemon Balm instead of citrus, and we've excluded coriander altogether, which is a pretty ubiquitous ingredient across gins. We were also set on ensuring that our neutral base spirit was of the finest quality, and organic which is currently sourced from Essex.

Initially we started out distilling in a more traditional (albeit tiny) copper pot still setup, but we quickly found out that to retain the flavours of the more delicate botanicals we would need a far gentler method of distillation.

After a bit of research, we bought a Rotary Evaporator - a spinning glass vessel connected to a condensing unit (used moreso in perfumery, medicine and more recently in molecular gastronomy), a vacuum pump and a recirculating chiller that allows us to condense what is boiled at about -20 degrees celsius, and never heats any botanical above the temperature of the human body (Just to give you an idea, alcohol usually boils at 78 degrees celsius, which can destroy or completely alter certain flavours - think of the difference between fresh strawberries, and strawberry jam!).

How long have you been selling Stovell’s gin?

We've been selling our gin for just over a year now and it's stocked by ourselves, Master of Malt, and a couple of other suppliers. Last year, shortly after our gin was sold through retail, we placed fourth on the Independent's '10 Best Gins' (2015) and Difford's Guide rated us 4.5 stars out of 5.

Barbecued Anjou Quali, Quince

and Chanterelles

Can you tell me a little bit more about ‘Cooking with Fernando’.

I have been approached by a lovely friend called Sam who owns Bijou weddings. We decided to associate his brand with ours to venture into cooking classes abroad in one of his properties in the South of France for a week. The response has been overwhelming and we were at full capacity on the first week of going live. So watch out for summer 2017 - https://bijoufest.com/festivals/cooking-fernando

I have also been teaching for Saturday Kitchen cookery school -  https://www.cactuskitchens.co.uk/school

 

Last year you were awarded 4 AA rosettes, will you be aiming for your first Michelin star this year?

Yes of course, but first and foremost we’re pushing to keep the restaurant busy. With the economy as it currently is that has to be the main focus. If we get one star fantastic. I think any business that has four rosettes, 6 points on the good food guide and is rated number 64 on The Times list will want one star one day.

 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th June 2016

Fernando Stovell, Chef Patron, Stovell's