Simon Rogan set the rumour mill into overdrive when he announced he was leaving Fera at Claridges in April to focus on L’Enclume – is Simon Rogan looking for that third star? We chat to the man himself about his future plans.
(Words: Michael Parker (Deputy Editor, The Staff Canteen))
Simon Rogan’s enviable career has seen him work with renowned chefs Marco Pierre White and John Burton-Race He went on to achieve two Michelin stars for his flagship restaurant, L’Enclume where he farms and forages his own ingredients.
Praised for his commitment to fresh, local produce, Simon has achieved what most chefs can only dream of; two stars in the Michelin Guide UK, five rosettes from the AA Restaurant Guide and a perfect 10 in the 2015 Good Food Guide – which also named L’Enclume its top restaurant for the fourth consecutive year in 2016.
Simon’s food style focuses heavily on foraged ingredients which he learnt at a young age from his father, a fruit and veg man who would bring home all manner of unusual and exotic produce. This transpired through to the early years of his career which were spent sourcing wild foods and ingredients.
“We take the whole idea of cuisine right back to the seed so if you grow the perfect ingredient as a chef, then your job in the kitchen becomes a whole lot easier and the menu writes itself,” said Simon.
He opened L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria in 2002 with his partner Penny Tapsell. Simon Rogan was awarded his first Michelin star in 2005 which was followed by a second star in 2013. He opened Fera at Claridge’s in 2014 but announced his departure from the venture in April.
Fera at Claridges will continue to be run by Simon’s protégé, head chef Matt Starling. Simon will now focus back on Umbel Restaurant Group – which owns, partners and manages restaurants in the UK that are committed to excellence – and look for a new London location for his pop-up Roganic, which he ran in Marylebone for two years.
Simon said: “It’s been a pleasure working with Claridge’s for a successful and enjoyable three years, and as the time has come to move on, we do so with excitement for the future and we’re grateful for our time at Fera.”
On his role as chef proprietor of the Umbel Restaurant Group he explained: “There’s a lot to cram in. There’s rarely days off, there’s a lot of international requests but that’s where I come back to a strong team behind me – we’re able to coordinate and carry out these tasks.”
A lot has changed for the restaurant since it first opened 15 years ago; it’s undergone various extensions and now includes a bakery and prep kitchen, but the biggest change has been the village itself.
“The one thing that I am most proud of is the actual change in the village of Cartmel. An abundance of shops, gift shops, food shops, restaurants, pubs. It’s become a real buzzy, amazing place,” said Simon.
Renowned for his intense commitment to fresh, local and seasonal produce that sets his cuisine apart, the decision to grow his own produce was due to a lack of suppliers that couldn’t deliver the quality of ingredients he was after.
“We came up with the idea of working with a farm. We didn’t have a lease or anything we just worked in conjunction with an existing farm which I think so many people do these days, which is great, but then as we moved on we decided that we wanted to broaden our range and we needed to have more say in what we did.”
It’s the farm which allows Simon to grow his own produce and has become the main source of inspiration for the Hampshireborn chef.
“There’s no where I am happier than being on the farm and pottering around, you just feel at one with your ingredients and seeing what can go on the menu that day; when something is ready we use it,” he explained.
After 15 years, two Michelin stars and a stint on Great British Menu, Simon is looking towards the future and how to stay ahead of the competition by keeping things new and fresh.
“We thought we would condense the menu by serving lots of things at the same time, making it a bit more interesting.” He continued: “I suppose the best thing that displays that is the guinea fowl which I think takes up two things on the menu. You don’t realise it’s the same dish but it shortens the menu. For 19 servings of food, people are only getting 10 trips to the table now so there’s lots of things going on.”
He added: “I’m never happy, there’s always ways to improve but I think the quality and facilities we have here have gone above and beyond what I anticipated. Hopefully we can improve a little bit more but I’m very content and happy with the way things have gone and where we are at the moment.”
Simon’s culinary career began after landing an apprenticeship at Rhinefield House Hotel in Hampshire. This was followed by a stint as a pastry chef at Geddes Restaurant in his hometown of Southampton. It was during this time he undertook stages under Marco Pierre White and John Burton-Race.
In the 1990s he worked for two years at the three-star Lucas Carton in Paris, under Alain Senderens, which was followed by his first head-chef position at Adlington Place in Croydon.
Today, Simon runs a team of around 80 to 90 at L’Enclume. He also has various projects in and around the village of Cartmel including Rogan & Company and the traditional pub, Pig and Whistle.
Download The Staff Canteen app Chef+ and watch the full interview with Simon and see him cook three dishes from the menu at L’Enclume.