Tuesday, 19 April 2016

2016 So Far


What a rollercoaster of a year, no pun intended.
 
So our 2016 season has started much faster than I expected with all the changes we made to Fin’s with regard to food offering and menu.  The team have pushed really hard to try and keep us moving forward. The changes we have made are significant and I think show our commitment to producing the best possible food we can with the resources we have.
 
Changing 90% of our food offering and taking much more in-house than in previous years has proved a test for the team. In simple terms the amount of prep now needed to be ready for service has tripled at least, but it’s proving to be a good thing the team feel more that the menu is there’s and are proud of what we serve.
 
Our jerk chicken, rice & peas have proved to be very popular and the jerk chicken pizza with riquitto chili pearls and smoked chipotle mayonnaise even more so. Simple preparations treated with care and respect, to make dishes our guest recognise but might not be daring enough to attempt at home.


 

The strides forward we have made in 16 months are incredible and without the support of #TeamFins it would not have been possible, to see how far some of the team members have come in that time is awesome. I hope we can have another great season and finish stronger than we did last year. I’m sure we are going to face some challenges across the season but it’s as big year for THORPE with Derren Brown’s Ghost Train opening soon.
 
Away from work watching my baby girl grow into a proper little lady is amazing from first tooth, first steps to first words has been truly special. I cannot take for granted what having Lizzie and Elouise to go home to each day means to me, it makes the hard work and sacrifice worth it. Having just moved into a bigger place with a garden for the first time I look forward to many sunny hours playing with Elouise out there. Finally having the space for a little herb garden and veg patch is something I’ve been looking forward to since we moved in.
 

Remember Live To Eat Don't Eat To Live

Friday, 1 January 2016

Bye Bye 2015, Hello 2016

So what has happened since I last posted on here, quite a lot to be honest. So at the end of 2014 I was lucky enough to open Pilots Bar and Kitchen in terminal 5, Heathrow and that was up to the point the biggest challenge I have faced in my career. The planning and stress that went into getting that open 3 days before Christmas 2014 was incredible but I was lucky enough to be part of a great opening team, Hannah my GM was immense, Kieran from head office always in the kitchen with me pushing to get it right and peter looking after Terminal 3 for me so I could concentrate on Pilots. 


After 14 months at Heathrow I decided it was time for a change and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do next or where I wanted to work. I wondered should I go back home, should I ask Lizzie and Elouise to up sticks and move across the country to start afresh again or should I keep pushing and looking for something close to where we live currently which after 8 years is now home.

With some gentle pushing by Paul at Towngate I found myself sitting in a meeting room at Thorpe Park being interviewed for their head chef role. I have never walked away from a first interview feeling as excited and wanting the chance to at least interview again. It was a big decision to leave the sort of world I had been working in and join a resort theme park but I remember talking to Lizzie about it for hours over the next few days as I weighed up my options. Lizzie really pushed me think about what Merlin could offer me and what I could give them back.

Ultimately I decide that I wanted to join Thorpe Park and see where the journey would take me. It has been a whirlwind, its been crazy but I absolutely love it I work with a awesome team and have great boss that really wants us to all succeed as a hotel team. 


My first year at Thorpe has been full of ups and downs, the food has improved almost beyond recognition, both FOH and BOH have not had the easiest years in regards to recruitment but the teams we have couldn’t have worked any harder than they did and I am so proud of how far we have come #TeamFins. I have been very lucky in the fact that Sarah our F&B manager has helped, steered and supported me though so much this year; honestly she has been my rock.


I look forward to getting our team back together and showing them what we have planned for 2016, we are not going to sit back and just repeat what we did last year we have big plans for the 2016 season and hopefully in 12 months time I can do another post and have some highlights to share with you all.


I’m sitting at home with music on and a cuppa thinking what a difference a year makes, this time last year I was not happy at work and when your work is such a big part of your life as mine has been it affects your home life also, this year having had 2 weeks of at Christmas for the first time since I left school in 1998. Its been amazing it really has, spending the amount of time I have been able to with Lizzie and Elouise is not something I have taken for granted. To be honest I think Lizzie is looking forward to having me out from under her feet.



I also rekindled my scouting career in 2015 by joining Oatlands Cub Pack as an assistant cub scout leader, those Tuesday nights at the scout hut remind me so much of being that age and the nights we had at the 2nd Brighton, St Richards. It makes you want to give back and pass on what I know and hopefully get one of the cubs onto a jamboree in the future, as that should be ever scouts dream.


I will really try and post more regularly, if there is anything you all would like to see a post about please let me know in the comments.



Remember Live to Eat Don’t Eat to Live

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Bell, Shepperton


Hi everyone, so its been a long time since I blogged anything but with the job with rhubarb and my little girl being born its been quite a year!  So, when a lizzie and I got a chance to go out and eat somewhere new together we jumped at the chance.

So last week we went to The Bell, Shepperton. The new head chef Neil Wackrill is the biggest influence on my cooking and it was amazing to eat this food again after 8 years of not working together.

The food is simple good food.  I’m not going to pigeon hole Neil’s cooking as its cooked from the heart and not cooking to impress the guides.

We started with a pint of prawns with chilli vinegar and a salad of shredded vegetables, very fresh sweet plump shell on prawns and really nicely spiced vinegar was an awesome way to start the meal even if I did have to peel all of Lizzies prawns!

Closely followed by 2 types of mussels, mine was a classic moules mariniere and Lizzies had moules Provençale. This dish was something Neil taught me when we worked together in Brighton and we couldn’t keep enough in stock. Nothing has changed the flavour was superb, clean, fresh and moreish making go back for another then another.



The highlight of the meal was the mains where we had a selection of the menu in a platter. Very good quality rib-eye and sirloin steak and spiced baby chicken served with spiced vegetable rice, chips, portabella mushrooms, confit tomatoes and green beans. Perfectly cooked steaks and chicken rice with just the right amount spice and seasoning. 


Lizzie and I tore though an awful lot of food but still couldn’t finish, as the portions here are generous to say the least but very reasonably priced for Surrey. We will be definitely be eating here again very soon, I loved the relaxed feel of the bell it’s a proper British pub and it now has a proper chef serving a proper quality food.  I would recommend this to anyone and everyone go and give it a try.


Remember live to eat don’t eat to live

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Alyn Williams At The Westbury

Right time to write up another great meal out this time at Alyn Williams at the Westbury, having arrived I was stunned at how beautiful the dining room is.

We decided to go for the tasting menu and let the sommelier pick a glass of wine for each of us to match the early courses and a glass each to match the mains as my dining partner and myself had chosen to have 1 each of the main choices.

The meal started with great bread, caraway butter and lovely light canapĂ©s 
including tempura peppers and airy cheese gougeres. 


 These where followed by our first course of –

Crab/Pot au feu/milk/Celery crisp,
This was full flavour, light, brilliantly fresh and vibrant.


Orkney scallop/Cuttlefish/Caraway/Mint 
came next and was mind blowing in its simplicity but packed an almighty punch.



The course that followed was not on the tasting menu but turned out to be one of my favorite dishes from the meal –

Heritage tomato/wasabi/radish
When a tomato taste as good as these did you don’t need to do a lot to them but the finesse the kitchen showed with this dish put any other tomato dish I have had in the shade.



Marinated quail/Smoked egg/Baked potato/Pickled red cabbage
Again brilliant flavours and clever use of textures to create a balanced and properly tasty dish.



Cured salmon/Peas/radish/Summer truffle
If not the best dish of the day a very very close second. Clean, bright and salmon cooked with great precision.




















Next where the 2 main courses,

Devon ruby red sirloin and cheek/Turnips/Sand carrots/Croutons
&
Char grilled dry aged pork/River kennet crayfish/White asparagus

Beautifully cooked sirloin, tender melting cheeks and carrots with an incredible flavour.



But for me the pork was the highlight of the whole meal, sweet succulent loin and belly pork, crisp skin, perfect crayfish, butter roasted white asparagus and a light jus was just awesome.



Cornish cheesecake/Pineapple/Timur pepper/Cereal
This was our pre dessert and like the rest of the meal it was full of flavour, clever in the way it was presented.



Our final course –
Chocolate cake/masala/Mascarpone/Passion fruit
Simple In design and plating but it was wicked, warm and satisfying.





I have included the images of the wines we tasted all 4 where very nice but the Alberino stood out to me as something abit different and was very nice.














So to sum up the meal was awesome, Alyn was nice enough to come out and say hello and spend a few minutes chatting. He seemed at ease and very happy with the way life is going at the moment.
The service we received was top draw; the gentleman that served us was knowledgeable about the menus and Alyn’s style of cooking and was relaxed and looked like he really enjoyed his job.


Remember live to eat don’t eat to live

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Alimentum


I would like to start this with a thank you to Mark Poyton and his team at Alimentum for an incredible birthday lunch and also a sorry as this was back in march and I should have posted about it before now (sorry mate).

I was lucky enough to meet mark when I worked with him on his course for Kai we care back in 2011 and had wanted to go to Alimentum since then, I finally made it down to Cambridge for my birthday this year. As my wife has a couple of allergies I was in contact with Mark about this before our meal and when we arrived I couldn’t wait to see what we would be having.

I am not 100% sure of all the dishes we had as Mark cooked us what he had planned and I never saw a menu but will do my best to remember them, Mark had managed to work out a meal where lizzie and I had a nearly identical meal with only subtle changes to accommodate lizzies allergies.


Some dishes didn’t even make the camera as I couldn't wait to try them. just before we get to the pictures, Mark I'm sorry if the descriptions are wrong and if you can give me the menu descriptions i will put them right on here.



Salmon, broccoli, puffed rice & yogurt sorbet

Crisp, clean flavours a prelude to what was to come 



Heritage carrot salad

The absolute highlight of my meal, amazing carrots that showed what can be achieved with real skill with seasoning and bringing the best out an ingredient. It was served with a goats cheese ice cream, awesome on its own better with a mix of carrots.




Halibut, pumpkin seeds, butternut, savoy & trompette mushrooms

This was lizzie's favourite course, beautifully cooked fish with the seeds adding texture as well as flavour the trompettes adding an earthiness to the dish.



Beef and onions

Perfectly cooked beef with ragu of oxtail, bone marrow and onions cooked in a variety of ways including puree, roast onion and crispy fried onions. this was a plate full of flavour and skill balancing the huge flavour in the oxtail ragu and the richness of bone marrow the different taste and textures of the onions. To me this was a masterclass in putting a main course together, everything on the dish deserved to be there and nothing was there for show.



Pear & rhubarb 

A very elegant dish to finish the meal of pear and rhubarb both done a couple of ways, fresh pear, pear sorbet, poached rhubarb, rhubarb gel and i think brown butter powder. as with everything i ate that lunch it was beautifully presented, full of flavour and original.



Just to finish i would like to add that the service was bang on, the guys really do sell the restaurant and marks vision for it brilliantly. To say i enjoyed my meal is an understatement i will defiantly be going back in the evening at some point to do the full on tasting menu and i suggest if you have not been you get down there, it is defiantly worth a journey thats for sure.


Remember live to eat don't eat to live