Chef Profile: Simon King on Local Ingredients
PUBLISHED: 17:00 15 March 2011 | UPDATED: 15:14 20 February 2013
Simon King of 1861 Restaurant near Abergavenny tells us about his passion for the very best local ingredients
Tell us about your menu.
Here at 1861 I source the best local seasonal produce available, indeed most of our vegetables are grown by my father-in-law, practically to order and delivered fresh every day. The menu is designed using these fantastic ingredients, treating them simply and with respect, therefore getting the absolute best from them - for example a summer risotto of peas, broad beans, Little Gem lettuce and mint, where the flavours are intense as all the vegetables are in season. Or a piece of belly pork gently braised for four hours, which will simply melt in the mouth.
What is your signature dish?
While I enjoy cooking anything with great ingredients, some of the most popular dishes here at 1861 are: salmon and scallop ravioli, lobster oil and crispy seaweed, or roast rack of lamb with a rosemary jus, and when it comes to desserts our customers always comment on the summer fruit terrine, and my bread and butter pudding.
Which chefs have inspired you?
The Roux brothers, Albert and Michel, are always an inspiration: they have been at the very top of the profession for such a long time, and trained so many of today's best chefs and restaurateurs. They are like the Godfathers of modern British gastronomy. I was also very privileged to work with Martin Blunos, who really inspired me to search for the best local ingredients and showed me how to use fantastic wild food like wild garlic and nettles, not to mention mushrooms.
Where did you train?
I spent two years at Peterborough College, to get my City and Guilds qualifications, but the real training in this career is always in the work place. I worked for three years at the famous Waterside Inn, a 3 Michelin-starred restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, owned by the Roux brothers. After that I needed to develop my pastry skills so I moved to Lettonie, a 2 Michelin-starred restaurant in Bristol and then Bath, run by Sian and Martin Blunos. I stayed with them for seven years heading up the kitchen, alongside Martin, before moving on to become the head chef at Llansantffraed Court Hotel near Abergavenny, which is where I met my wife Kate.
Why did you become a chef?
From the moment I first made a bowl of muesli in a home economics lesson at the age of 11 I knew that I really wanted to work with food, although if you ask my mum she'll say I always copied her in the kitchen at home! Cooking is something that you have to be passionate about because it is one of the most mentally and physically demanding careers you can choose. You can only really feel fulfilled by it when you are doing your very best.
Which local suppliers do you use?
All of our suppliers are local. The only ingredient that isn't sourced within 20 miles is our fish, which comes fresh from Brixham in Devon. Our lamb comes from about a mile away, and in the summer our fruit comes from a farm at the end of the road.
How often do you change your menu?
Our menu changes daily to incorporate the freshest ingredients available.
What was your favourite childhood food?
My mum's strawberry and mascarpone cheesecake. My sister and I would pick the strawberries all afternoon in dad's garden before washing them for mum to make the cheesecake for tea; and if I was good I was allowed to lick the bowl These days I use a recipe adapted from my mum's to serve here at 1861, in all sorts of flavours, not just strawberry.
What is your favourite dish to eat?
Kate's bacon and egg sandwich. Everything is hot and fresh and I've had a rest from the stove!
What was your most memorable meal?
At Joel Robuchon's 3 Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris. The service and the food were totally out of this world. However, for somewhere more local I would choose the Michelin-starred restaurant called 5 North Street in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire: it is small and perfect in every way.
1861 Restaurant, Cross Ash, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire NP7 8PB
0845 388 1861, www.18-61.co.uk