When it comes to food the word innovation is often met with as much derision as it is praise, with many sneering at even the mention of foams and emulsions, spherifications or savoury sorbets. However, true innovation is being able to apply the variety of new techniques, concepts and combinations now available with delicacy, skill and elegance. When this fine balance is achieved successfully the results can reach beyond merely the commendable, even the exceptional. They can be extraordinary.
Simon Rogan is not only one of the UK’s best chefs, but a pioneer. He a master of synthesis, combining cutting edge techniques and technology with a deep affinity with nature. He is committed to the development of technical processes, but also to the promotion of farmed, foraged and even long forgotten ingredients. His restaurants have deservedly won numerous awards and his flagship restaurant L’Enclume was recently voted the best restaurant in the UK by the 2014 Good Food Guide. He is culinary legend in the making and recently I caught up with him to ask a few quick questions…
How would you describe your culinary philosophy?
Modern British food with a massive connection to our surroundings using the very best natural ingredients
You are renowned for delicately pairing technical innovation with an affinity for nature. Where do you find your inspiration?
Most of the inspiration during our current phase comes from our Farm and the wild, and produce available from it. These ingredients are then presented to Aulis where they are explored and prepared in a way that best suits our menu at that time.
What is the process of creating dishes for your menus?
As I said above, it all starts with the primary ingredient and possible accompanying items. Aulis then gets to work exploring a technique or using technology available at that time. As a rule though, as our ingredients get better and better we try to do less and less with them!
Have any combinations not worked?
Too many to mention although anything we tried to do with Cotton lavender was quite nasty
What locally farmed or foraged ingredient would you like to see more of on restaurant menus?
Farmed I would say Scorzonera and from the wild Sweet Cicely
What single piece of advice would you give to aspiring chefs and professional cooks?
Learn as much as you can by choosing your career path very carefully, keep your head and down and do your time.
Tell me more about the Aulis project?
The Aulis project is at the centre of all that we do, but primarily to constantly provide all new material for all our restaurants and to ensure that there is no obvious repetition. It is also involved in the agricultural and foraging side of our business, educational and consultancy projects and of course has The Table for guests to come and sample its latest creations.
What do you hope to achieve and what are the biggest challenges you foresee?
I hope to be remembered one day as someone who really made a difference during my period of time and my biggest challenge is keeping the backbone of my very talented team together to help me achieve that.
What do you see in the future for food, both in the UK and internationally?
Obviously, I believe standards in the UK will continue to improve in a very diverse way and I wish I had a crystal ball to see the future as you can never predict the latest trend and it would be nice to get in there first
What do you enjoy cooking at home?
I hardly ever cook at home as I work quite a lot but I do enjoy cooking a roast
What technique, tip or innovation would you recommend all home cooks learn?
Obviously, I would like to see more people growing there own and all methods of preservation is also the way forward.
What's next for you?
Who knows, but a return to London is probably a dead cert.
For more information about Simon Rogan, the Aulis project or his restaurants, please visit http://simonrogan.co.uk/