Chef Profile: Matt Slocombe
PUBLISHED: 16:58 15 March 2011 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013
The word 'Local' could have been invented for the Crown Inn at Woolhope. It's a traditional village pub run by Matt and Annalisa Slocombe whose aim is to work with local farms and producers to serve up the very best that Herefordshire has to offer...
The word 'Local' could have been invented for the Crown Inn at Woolhope. It's a traditional village pub run by Matt and Annalisa Slocombe whose aim is to work with local farms and producers to serve up the very best that Herefordshire has to offer.
The Crown is at the centre of village life and a meeting place for the cricket club, which Matt plays for, to the darts, table tennis and quoits teams, tennis and football clubs and amateur dramatic society.
Matt's background is in Law. After leaving university he worked as a Certificated Bailiff for three years, travelling to the corners of England and Wales collecting business rates and private rents.
After further work in litigation he stumbled into the multi award-winning Scrumpy House when offered the lease in 2000. "I thought it might be fun," he says. "I have always enjoyed good food and had a vision of what a good restaurant should be about but was very lucky to start the business with Tom Burston who although only 21 had great experience and his efforts in the kitchen let me get on with running the business. It was Tom who taught me enough to allow me to take over in the kitchen when he moved to London in 2004.
"Five years later the trade has been good to me and my wife Annalisa, who I met at the restaurant, as we now own the freehold of the Crown Inn at Woolhope where we live with our two young children."
The Crown Inn has been commended in the Flavours of Herefordshire Pub of the Year since Matt and Annalisa took over.
The Chef Bites Back - Matt Slocombe
What is your earliest memory of food?
I think it is probably rice pudding! My big sister used to heap drinking chocolate powder in the middle of a big bowl of rice pudding and then sprinkle sugar on. She taught me the art of scraping down the side of the chocolate mountain and getting the mix with the rice pudding just right.
Who influenced your decision to become a chef?
I was lucky that Tom Burston and I worked very closely together at Scrumpy House and I was able to learn so much from him. After that you try things and sometimes they work. My wife and I both cooked at the restaurant, it helps when you can both get stuck in. We both cook at the Crown now although most of the cooking is done by Ula, our Head Chef which is great as we are getting busier and busier.
What was the first dish you cooked?
At the Scrumpy House when I first went into the kitchen I did a family and friends night to test my new menu. The favourite was a nine-spiced rack of lamb with cucumber and mint salsa.
Where is your favourite restaurant?
Caf Zam Zam in Malvern, simply the best curry I have had in this country. Take your own cider and ask Sunni for thin naan bread with a South Indian garlic chilli chicken and a bindi bhaji. You will not get better.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Which celebrity chef/s do you admire?
Nigel Slater for his simple approach and enjoyment of the basics.
Which nationality cooks the best food?
What is your favourite piece of equipment?
Our Chef at the Crown, Ula! She came to the Scrumpy House five years ago as a novice and worked in the kitchen there. She has learnt very fast and is simply fantastic in the kitchen. We are so happy to have her with us at the Crown. After her it is a sharp Global knife!
What's in your fridge at home?
What is the best meal you've ever cooked?
Last night my wife and I had a huge chunk of Herefordshire fillet steak from D.T. Waller and Sons in Ledbury, asparagus from Kier Rogers in Hampton Bishop, some baby potatoes from Seb and Abby at Caplor Farm down the road and a quick peppercorn sauce. That was damn good.
What is your signature dish?
Having been at the Crown for almost two years now we have concentrated on simple, fresh, traditional pub food. Our beef and Wye Valley Bitter pie always goes down well as do our steaks. Mussels cooked in cider with crusty walnut bread hits the spot too.
Do you have a tip for a novice cook?
Stay a novice! Get your pan hot. Season well.
Have you ever been injured in the kitchen?
I had a bad burn from a pan handle that had been over a flame, that was silly and I once lost a good chunk off the top of my thumb. Luckily the people waiting to be served were good friends so they took me to get sewn it up, I served them when we got back.
Have you cooked for anyone famous?
Margaret Thatcher and the Duke of Edinburgh. Both were charming.
What would you choose for your last meal on earth?
A dozen native oysters with good Champagne. A whole lobster with thyme butter and asparagus with Batard Montrachet. Roast rib of beef with Margaux. Roquefort and Sauternes. Crme Brule with chocolate ice cream and the rest of the Sauternes. That would probably kill me off.
The Crown Inn, Woolhope, Hereford.
Tel: 01432 860468. www.crowninnwoolhope.co.uk