We Grill – Rhian Cradock
Rhian Cradock is the head chef and owner of The Feathers Inn, an award-winning pub in Stocksfield, Northumberland. Ten-time winner of The Good Pub Guide County Dining Pub of the Year award and eight-time inspectors’ favourite of the Michelin Guide, Eating Out in Pubs, it has recently been crowned British Roast Dinner Week champion. Supported by his wife Helen, Rhian has just celebrated his tenth anniversary at The Feathers.
Tell us about The Feathers Inn…
It’s a family run business at the heart of the community. We keep a simple, yet traditional menu. We change it twice a day, using local, seasonal produce. Our intention is to serve the very best food and ale in a relaxed, yet professional environment. Our customers are locals and tourists who travel many miles to get here. And clearly we’re doing something right! To celebrate our 10 year anniversary, we teamed up with local fundraisers,past and present staff, other chefs and restaurateurs to create a banquet that raised £33,000 for the Red Cross in Syria. We wanted the occasion to be about fun as well as giving something back.
Congratulations on being crowned the national Best British Roast Dinner champion.
Thank you! It was not expected at all; there are so many good places doing fantastic Sunday lunch we were genuinely surprised we won. We have spent the last 10 years frequently trying other Sunday lunches to see how we can improve ours. We offer vegetables in family sized sharing dishes, serve large gravy boats on the table and make the cheesiest cauliflower cheese. We want the experience of eating a roast to be a special one that brings people together, and we think our little touches help with that. The effect of winning has been fantastic; we have been fully booked every Sunday since winning. The whole team is very proud.
What makes your roasts award winning?
The beef and pork we serve is reared right here in our village. We slow cook our pork overnight and do our own butchery so that the beef is cut into the individual muscles and roasted at a high temperature. Attention and care is paid to every aspect from the jus gravy, which takes three days to make, to the braised red cabbage, which again takes days. We make our own fresh horseradish and apple sauce too.
What about a meat or free-from roast?
We serve a gluten-free no-meat loaf on a Sunday, with all the trimmings. We often make a vegan crumble and always have vegetarian starters. Our roast dinners are all gluten free so it’s the perfect day for everyone.
Do you have a signature dish?
Not as such but our black pudding served with a poached egg and devilled gravy has always been popular, along with our roe deer wellington.
How will you mark Valentine’s Day?
We always do an alternative Valentine’s Day celebration with a Czech night – and it is always full! We stock the Czech beers Pilsner Urquell and Kozel on the bar, so decided to have something different with a theme night which everyone can enjoy; not just couples. Each customer gets a pint of each beer and we serve a set three course Czech meal. We also have a great choice of cocktails and live music. It’s a fun party – and a very rowdy alternative to a typical Valentine’s event!
How did your love of food develop?
Growing up in a north east mining town, I was surrounded by family who loved to cook hearty meals – mainly pies – and I’d watch with awe as my grandma prepared the fish and pheasants caught by my granddad. I’d always ask where I could help, and by the time I was seven I was making scones and helping with the roast dinner. Soon, I was inviting my friends home at lunch and making them food. It just became part of me and it was something I enjoyed.
What is your career history?
When I was 16 I got my first experience of working in a professional kitchen for the then Michelin-starred chef Terry Laybourne at Cafe 21. I then worked for the De Giorgi family at Don Vito’s before being made head chef at Pod in Liverpool then at The Other Place Bistro. I moved to London to work at various places including Chez Bruce, The National Portrait Gallery restaurant and Bentley’s and was fortunate to get invaluable experience working with people like Billy Reid and Richard Corrigan. When I was 26 my wife and I decided that we’d like to set up our own business closer to home so we bought the Feathers and we haven’t looked back since.
Which chefs inspire you or had an impact on your career?
I am inspired by chefs such as Alice Waters who is the owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California and Fergus Henderson owner of St JOHN restaurant in London due to their responsible, sustainable and tasty cooking.
Hobbies outside the kitchen?
I am a Beaver Scout leader and often help out at Cubs too. I really enjoy travelling. My degree was in archaeology, so I like to visit historic sites and take my children to museums.