Richard Allen, Executive Chef, The Orangery at Rockliffe Hall

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Other 18th September 2018

Richard Allen is the Executive Chef at 4 AA Rosette restaurant The Orangery at Rockliffe Hall where he has been for three years.

He previously worked at Michelin-starred Tassili restaurant at the 5* Grand Jersey Hotel but made the move to the North East when new owners bought the hotel.

For this month’s Menu Watch feature, The Staff Canteen spoke to Richard about his favourite season Autumn, why he likes to preserve ingredients highlight them on his dishes through the winter and why his signature dish is a beetroot sandwich but not as you know it.

Richard veg 2 low res

"You get inspiration just

from walking around it."

Richard Allen on the

kitchen garden at Rockliffe

What prompted your move to Rockliffe?

It happened pretty organically, the hotel in jersey was bought and had new owners and a different vision on where they wanted to take everything. I think at that time I’d taken the restaurant as far as I could – we had the star and I wanted a fourth Rosette but it felt like it was time to go.

Tell us about The Orangery.

It’s come full circle, when I got here we had four tasting menus, but we didn’t think the clientele were receiving it very well so we went to an al a carte. That didn’t really change things, so we are tasting menu only again now. The reason behind that is we have a great golf club and a brasserie – so if people want casual dining they have the option here already to have that.

The diversity of the food offerings here has allowed us to have one menu in The Orangery. When we made the change it was the perfect time and now it sits perfectly in the Rockliffe Estate.

As a tasting menu only restaurant, what are your thoughts on them?

It was perfect here as it gives people another offering. Tasting menus are a tricky subject, I think they have to be on for a certain amount of time for you to get it right and for you to get a feel for it. It definitely doesn’t deskill anything because the whole time you are evolving and changing – it could be something as a simple as a little bit of theatre of how you serve a dish or using ingredients from your garden.

I think there are always new things you can introduce and it’s up to me to keep it interesting. We change the menu every time we get a new ingredient, the season changes or there is something introduced to us.

Info bar

Favourite ingredients

Celeriac

Barbecued then vac packed with salt and smoked oil and cooked for 8 hours on 80 degrees c. The juice is amazing!

Beetroot

Salt baked then stored in my own beetroot wine.

Mackerel

Brined for 1 hour then blow torched to blacken the skin and served straight away.

Salt aged Peking duck

Cooked on the plancher on low heat 90% on the skin side, turned until cooked, then well rested.

Amaranth seeds

Popped in 220 degree vegetable oil. Like miniature popcorn only better.

Signature dishes:

The Orangery's chickpea dahl with Dukkah and homemade yogurt.

And the mighty beetroot sandwich with our beetroot wine and smoked goats curd.

What about ingredients, where do you source them?

We have a kitchen garden and we actually have a wild food blueprint here so we’ve had someone come over and do a map for us and place everything. We’ve got all sorts including horseradish, wild cress, corn salad and an abundance of wild garlic!

There’s a lot here and everything is continually changing. I foraged all the time in Jersey, it’s like a fridge when you walk outside because there is so much stuff. Here it’s taken a bit of time, I know foraging is not new but when you introduce it to your team it creates another string to your bow.

Asparagus low res
Asparagus

Our actual chef garden has only just started but there are a number of products available – unless you have access to acres and acres of land no chef can sustain their menu from their garden. But what we do have are nice things to add in. Plus, you get inspiration just from walking around it.

Has your food style and philosophy changed since you left Jersey?

It has evolved – I wouldn’t be able to put a label on it but it’s big flavours done simply.

I say to my team ‘what it says on the menu, has to represent on the plate when you see it’. Whether it’s a beautiful plate of food or something a bit more rustic – you’ll either identify it through sight or by flavour but it has to be easily identifiable. I don’t want people searching for flavours.

Barbeque pigeon breast beetroot young leaves low res
Barbeque pigeon breast, beetroot, young leaves

Is the menu just you or do the team have an input?

I work with the team because I like people to have a sense of worth. I think being quiet and peeling potatoes in the corner is long gone. A couple of the team have been with me for ten years, so they know how I work, they’ll come to me with for example a new ingredient and then and go away and try it three different ways and develop what works but it has to be right.

We don’t put it on the menu until it is right. There’s a lot of development and I don’t like to test on the customers! I do like feedback and I think it’s important to listen to it as it helps you move forwards but I don’t want someone to tell me something is awful because I’ve not tasted it or my chefs haven’t tried it.

Sometimes a new dish can take a day but obviously it can take longer. We can struggle to get it right, talk to another chef and then the light will go on or it may be a dish we revisit and evolve.

Do you have a signature dish?

Everyone tells me that the signature dish is the beetroot, it’s based on my mum and she used to grow beets, do beetroot wine and compost all the trimmings. She was a really great hedgerow cook and a lot of my food memories are based around what she used to do.

Landrace Yorkshire pork langoustine green tomato ketchup sea vegetable low res

 Langoustine, potato, leek

One of the things I used to love the most was my dad was a baker, so he used to bring fresh bread home and mum would make me a beetroot sandwich – and it was absolutely awesome!

Although my dish doesn’t represent a beetroot sandwich, when it first started off it did. Now it has evolved and instead of the bread we have really fine slices of meringue and at the moment it is served with smoked eel. It is a really cool dish and I wouldn’t want to ever take it off the menu, so I suppose people are right.

Do you have a favourite season?

Autumn. Without a doubt. I like that when you look outside nature is just shutting down - roots and game is not the only thing you can get, I love stoned fruits as well. I think this season is where our food style really comes into play because we’ll have sloes from two years ago, nasturtium vinegar and we do a lot of fermenting.

So you’re coming into autumn but you also have a lot of things which shouldn’t be there but they are salted or preserved. I think that’s what we were given them for in summer, you get a load and then you look after them through the winter.

You said you preserve ingredients, is there anything you have preserved, and it’s turned out to be horrible?

Yeah, we tried to ferment some hazelnuts and it was the worst, rotten egg sulphur smell – you could take the lid off and clear a room!

Richard Allen Chef's Strawberry dish low res
Gariguette strawberry, estate fennel

You like Asian cuisine when you eat out, does this reflect in your own cooking?

Definitely. We do sashimi, we have a cured mackerel dish and we do our own dashis and kombu. I think it’s a nice way of introducing some umami into your food. We have a chickpea dahl which is kickass – if you have ten courses and all of a sudden you have a chickpea dahl in there it’s not expected. But also it is quite filling and generally if you are having ten courses they are not big plates of food so it’s nice to give people something hearty.

Finally, as a chef who started in the industry by attending college – what do you think is the right route to take for young chefs coming into the industry now?

I went to a brilliant college, Bournemouth and Poole was amazing and I can’t speak highly enough about it. It did what I thought it would and I got a great first posting on day release. Now any advice I would give to anyone coming into the trade with regards to college is do your research, find out the sort of places you’ll be sent to and what the curriculum involves. Find one which is known around the country as a good college and don’t spend too long there – the best thing you can do is get into a kitchen. Be a sponge and learn as much as you can!  

 

 

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Other 18th September 2018

Richard Allen, Executive Chef, The Orangery at Rockliffe Hall

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