February 22 2012
Our house was in full flow when I left this morning. My eldest son Jake was eager to get to school running club before 8am; Jess and Archie were being less compliant. I left first and was at my desk within 30 minutes. Senior chef Mark had the day off, so I needed to check through outstanding emails before heading upstairs to the kitchen and morning preparation.
Beef dishes are always a popular choice in the restaurant, and at the moment we have a fabulous Galloway beef option on the menu, served with Dorset snails, horseradish and kale. I spent about an hour trimming the fillet to be served during the day. There isn’t much waste from the beef, but any scraps are used for the preparation of sauces.
I truly enjoy my precious morning prep time. I have the opportunity to catch up with people face to face while doing something I thoroughly enjoy. First up this morning was Brad; he looks after any ongoing building or repair projects we have at the restaurant – and keeps me up to date on London kitchen gossip. Then I met the host of this evening’s private event (held in our private dining room, The Pomerol Room), who was over from Marrakech; he came to see the room before dining. I had a brief catch up with my wife Jane, before she dashed off to the reservation office, where she is based.
We are very busy at my other restaurant, The Gilbert Scott, and at the moment we have a number of fantastic wine suppers in the diary. The Gilbert Scott – or TGS, as it is affectionately known – opened last May in the Renaissance St Pancras. The building is incredible and took years to transform, but now seems to have been in use forever. The brasserie is most definitely settling into its surroundings. Last night they held one of their many wine events – the focus was Chateau Musar and it was, by all accounts, a huge success.
To ensure we are keeping up we will be hosting our very own wine evening at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley at the beginning of March. We have some fabulous magnums from the Domaine Prieuré Roch, and I have prepared a bespoke menu to match using some of the glorious beef fillet. I wonder if I will be permitted a taste of the wine; possibly not, as I will be cooking rather than eating.
Every item is tasted before anything leaves the kitchen, which means about 30 flavours pass my lips before 11am every morning. These can be finished items, such as the amuse-bouche or the canapés, or it could be a new dessert – or just the components of dishes from each menu, such as sauces, sorbet or a foam. I taste throughout the cooking process, as it is the only way to ensure that the final dish is the best it can possibly be. I particularly enjoyed a new canapé that chef Darren put together – a carpaccio with smoked egg and horseradish. I am often quizzed about my diet: when do I eat? Due to the nature of my job, I graze throughout the day, so no meals are required, apart from the weekend.
Then it’s time for a quick look at bank accounts – business and home – to keep an eye on the comings and goings, before the lunch service begins. We had a busy lunch today. Service started promptly at 12pm with the arrival of the first 40 guests.
Then the afternoon is given over to more emails – this time involving a possible TV appearance and some food photo shots, in addition to the usual management issues that I am copied into. Even though I am not handling everything, it means I keep a close eye on the majority of things happening in the restaurants. I managed a quick conversation with Jane and the kids, who were at home cooking pancakes for tea. I put in a request for a small amount of batter to be retained for my supper.
I have spent the past three years redesigning the kitchen hotplate in my head. In December my plans finally came to fruition as I invested the time and money in the redesign of our central service area. The changes were partly aesthetic and partly for logistical reasons; the Chef’s Table now has a largely uninterrupted view into the kitchen, and we can dress the plates from both sides of the hotplate, which makes service a dream – particularly handy for a larger table like the one we have this evening: 12 seated in The Pomerol room. We can now have four chefs dressing the plates from both sides and not just the usual two; it is much more efficient.
I was home just before midnight – in time for Jane to cook me a couple of delicious pancakes while I caught up on the Champions League highlights on TV. I am really looking forward to Sunday, when Liverpool are in the Carling Cup Final, their first time at the new Wembley. I have a serious choice to make: do I watch Jake play rugby for his school, or do I cheer my favourite team in a cup final...!?
In bed by 1.30am.