Adam Simmonds, 43, achieved his first Michelin star at Ynyshir Hall, Wales, in 2006, before establishing Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House, where he achieved a Michelin star, 4 AA rosettes and an 8/10 in the Good Food Guide. He now oversees the restaurant at the Pavilion, one of London’s most exclusive business members’ clubs.
What ignited your passion for cooking?
Being dyslexic, I always struggled academically, but when it came to home economics I thrived. I found it easy being creative with my hands rather than sitting behind a desk, where, despite trying my hardest I found it extremely difficult – unlike cooking, which came naturally. Mum and dad encouraged me by allowing me to cook for them and their friends. Looking back I was only 16 and I used to do the odd dinner party for six – it probably tasted awful! But it was my parents support that helped me realise what I wanted to be.
Which chef has inspired you the most?
Every chef I’ve worked for has inspired me and I’ve gained something from them all. The team at The Halkin Hotel, London, took me under their wing and taught me a lot, and then I learnt a great deal from Marco Pierre White at Les Saveurs in London. But the most influential one was Raymond Blanc at the Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. I was 27 and it was my last job before I took a head chef job at 32, and I learnt more about flavour from him than from anybody else.
What are your favourite ingredients to use in November and December?
I find winter quite a difficult season to be honest, as everything is dark and heavy and I find it quite a challenge to lighten the ingredients. Everything that is in season is quite robust, and you can’t add baby vegetables on dishes because it isn’t the right time of year. But it’s a great season for game – it smells fantastic and just sums up autumn and winter.
Describe your style of cooking.
I try not to follow trends but use my own style. It looks simple but behind the scenes a lot of technical work and thought has gone into it – I want the dish to have an array of flavours and textures. At the moment, people aren’t putting as much on their plate, so my cooking tends to be minimal.
Is there anything you can’t cook?
Yes – Yorkshire puddings! Chefs who have worked with me laugh, but for some bizarre reason I just can’t cook them. I know it’s ridiculous because technically it is the simplest thing, so why on earth I struggle I’ll never know. I’ve been in the industry 24 years and I still can’t master Yorkshire puddings. Ridiculous!
Favourite childhood food memory?
It’s got to be the Sunday lunch, for two reasons. It was the one time each week when the whole family got together around the table, and secondly, the smell and taste of the whole dinner, whether it was roast beef or chicken, is unforgettable. Mum wasn’t the best cook but she was good and the effort that went into preparing that meal is something I am now grateful for and really appreciate.
What interests do you have outside the kitchen?
I like extreme sports: I snowboard and wakeboard. I also visit the the gym and support Tottenham Hotspur FC, who I go and see when I can.
Piece of equipment in the kitchen you couldn’t live without?
Right now, the water bath. I believe the Sous Vide Tools one is the best on the market. It’s consistent and ideal for the Pavilion, where our speciality is our steaks – we get a lot of praise for them. We age our meat for 35 days, so we have a fantastic product to begin with. Then rather than roasting them from raw, all we do is cook it in the best way, by using the water bath, and then sealing. They give us a lot of compliments, with some people saying they are the best steaks in London!
Favourite restaurant in the UK?
Blimey there are so many…one of the great pubs that I like to eat in is the White Oak at Cookham. It has fantastic food cooked very well, and the restaurant has a nice informal atmosphere, with friendly staff. But there are so many great restaurants in the UK I wouldn’t want to single out just one.
Tell us about the new restaurant at the Pavilion…
The previous assistant general manager of Danesfield House had started as general manager at The Pavilion, so he asked me to come with him and help set it up. It’s an informal, modern brasserie where we focus on the very best of seasonal British produce and the finest ingredients to create exceptional cuisine. Our number one dish is steak, as it’s good value for money. You don’t just pay for a steak, you get steak with pickled onions, chips or salad. I love it and am really happy, but my career aim is to have my own place in the future.