“It’s just a joy to cook” —Tom Scade

The Staff Canteen

As a permanent landmark on the culinary map, joining five-star hotel and spa The Vineyard was an absolute career-high for Tom Scade, Executive Chef at The Vineyard.

As a young chef in the early 2000s, Tom remembers Billy [Reid] getting the first star at the The Vineyard restaurant’s opening and then John Campbell coming in as Executive Chef. With John Campbell’s Formulas for Flavour one of the first books Tom bought, The Vineyard was always up there as a dream place to work.

“And it was always on my mind”, Tom Scade says of the 3 AA Rosette restaurant. Serendipity stepped in and he found himself in the Berkshire area, following in these admired chef’s illustrious footsteps, becoming Executive Chef in 2019.

The simplicity of enjoyment

Encompassing everything that goes into a role as full and varied as Tom’s is difficult. Ultimately, it’s about “providing the best food possible and giving people the best experience possible”, Tom says.

Any chef wants to do that; they want to express themselves. But, it’s the fine dining venue that makes that extra special for Tom, enabling him to pursue his love of cooking and enjoy himself while doing it. “It’s just a joy to cook,” he says. In possibly the best review of any job you could give, Tom says heading up the respected venue’s menus “doesn’t feel like a job, it’s amicable and natural,” Tom adds.

At The Vineyard, Tom serves dishes like the Berkshire Trout with pickled cucumber and horseradish, paired with Kieran Vineyard Gin. “It’s just really simple food that is good to eat,” Tom says, describing his style. They are elevated with the finest locally sourced ingredients, where possible, to create elegant works of art. Currently, the team has a stuffed quail dish with mash, wild garlic and Savoy cabbage. “It takes some skill to do,” Tom says.

Dining at The Vineyard wouldn’t be complete without its afternoon tea, savoury sandwiches, and an incredible selection of cakes, scones and sweet treats. A British hotel in the heart of Berkshire means the team “has got to serve a good afternoon tea” and has Nicholas Bouherlier, the venue’s Head Pastry Chef, in the kitchen showcasing his superb skills.

Decades of detail

Defining Tom’s style is not so easy to do because it’s evolved from his classical background, varied experiences and numerous influences over his two decades of working for Martin [Blunos] or John Williams at The Ritz Hotel London. “My style is from a classic background but simple,” says Tom who prioritises sourcing and using the best products possible.

Taking inspiration from California, Tom says it gets you moving and developing what he dubs “proper” cooking. “I am doing little to the food, using great quality ingredients and letting them speak for themselves,” Tom adds.

The Vineyard has two menus: one vegan and one with meat and fish dishes. Tom wanted to ensure that its menus are intertwined. “So it’s a lot more work, and it’s probably a lot more stressful than it needs to be, but I’m keen to create our plant-based menu in tangent with the main menu,” says Tom.

Catering to dietary requirements as standard, the dual menus, which are served alongside one another, mean all guests can enjoy their food, whether they’re opting for the plant-based or animal-originating options. “There’s nothing worse than sitting down, having a meal, and having two different experiences,” Tom continues.

“You want to be able to sit and talk about the food and what you’re eating, and we want it to be the same and for people to enjoy the same experience no matter their dietary preferences,” adds Tom.

Immersive taste experiences

Guests visit The Vineyard to tweet about its delicious food, enjoy fabulous wines and enjoy the hotel. The Vineyard is dedicated to successfully marrying its Californian provenance with its exquisite Berkshire produce. Linking to its California vineyard to tell that story, the restaurant sits on 28 covers and serves Thursday to Saturday evenings and Friday and Saturday lunches.

The Vineyard is wine-led, which creates a relationship between food and wine that is even more symbiotic than at most restaurants. Traditionally, the chef makes the dish, and the sommelier matches it with complimentary drink pairings. But with the passion to create a truly harmonious fine dining and drinking experience, The Vineyard does things very differently.

Tom’s job is not therefore complete once he’s cooked delicious dishes. The venue’s Tasting Room is devised to elevate the restaurant guests’ experiences and to tell its story. When guests are welcomed to the Tasting Room, they are greeted with a multisensory experience, starting with a black glass at their table. A core part of the dining experience, the black glass is designed to break down barriers of wine and snobbishness. Unable to see their drinks, guests guess what they’re drinking, relying on smell and taste alone.

When preparing the dish, Tom and his team will taste two or three wines. Naturally, sometimes, a particular wine won’t work. Recalling one of his first experiences at The Vineyard, Tom remembers having a trout dish with caviar and a backer wine from Camel Valley, Cornwall, on the menu. “I knew this wine and wanted to work with it, but it didn’t,” Tom says. “I tasted the wine, and it stuck with me,” Tom adds.

In an effort to showcase the wine itself, the specific selection informs Tom’s fine dining dishes. When Romain Bourger, The Vineyard’s Head Sommelier, sources an exquisite wine, Tom will devise a dish specifically to pair and enjoy with it. “It is a refreshing way to work and a different source of inspiration—and as a chef, you need inspiration from all over the place,” Tom shares.

Tom’s goals for The Vineyard’s Tasting Room are rooted in having happy and satisfied guests and a full, bustling restaurant. “My aspiration for the Tasting Room is to cement its place in The Vineyard’s history,” says Tom. With the food-led experience a core reason people stay at the venue, it’s vital The Vineyard is recognised and renowned as a food-led destination.

Nurturing the next generation

Tom loves to focus on nurturing and developing his team of early-career chefs, watching them grow into future stars and making The Vineyard a culinary destination. “I like creating a kitchen brigade where young chefs are coming through,” says Tom.

The Vineyard celebrates its comprehensive apprenticeship programme. With a handful of apprentices at any given time, the early-career chefs learn from Tom’s decades of experience and expertise, first-hand.

Looking back to the culinary talent developed at The Vineyard, amazing chefs such as Nathan Outlaw, Shay Cooper and Matt Gillan have all trained there. Tom puts a great deal of pride in helping to carve out the future careers of the venue’s next generation. “Watching them grow and the kitchen grow is an outstanding achievement for me,” adds Tom.

 

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th May 2024

“It’s just a joy to cook” —Tom Scade