Peter Goossens' three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Belgium was the stage for 2014 Roux Scholar Tom Barnes, much to the delight of a very impressed Michel Roux. Janie Manzoori-Stamford reports
Inspiration can be found in all manner of guises: art and music, flavours and ingredients, sights and sounds. But whatever it is that floats your boat, being in the presence of a long-held dream realised at last can't help but stir feelings of admiration.
That's exactly what a trip to Peter Goossens' three-Michelin-starred restaurant Hof van Cleve in Kruishoutem, Belgium, brought Michel Roux when he visited 2014 Roux Scholar Tom Barnes, head chef at Simon Rogan's L'Enclume, during his three-month stage, awarded to him as part of his prize for winning the 31st instalment of the prestigious cooking competition.
While it would be perfectly reasonable for newly crowned scholars to want to take some time to consider their options, Barnes was able to pinpoint right away the restaurant experience he most wanted to take away from the Roux Scholarship.
"It wasn't exactly a difficult choice," he admits, having first read about Hof van Cleve as a young chef-in-training. "I've wanted to come here for years. It was the style of the food and the presentation of everything that I saw. It's definitely lived up to my expectations."
Roux also welcomed the opportunity to experience his peer's cooking and hospitality, having previously only known him by reputation.
He had the added pleasure of finding in Goossens a chef who was ensuring his temporary charge got the best out of his stage.
visit, was getting to grips with cold starters. A spell on the hot dishes was imminent.
"I'm very pleased Tom chose Hof van Cleve because I'd heard of Peter before but I didn't know him. He's a gentleman," Roux enthuses. "Not every chef takes a scholar and
moves them every three weeks, helping them to develop. It's very good."
Thanks to the hands-on and supportive nature of his temporary mentor, Barnes has extended his culinary odyssey beyond the restaurant, joining Goossens on extra-curricular projects such as a cooking demonstration at the Barry Callebaut chocolate factory during the launch of M.E.P: Mise En Place, a cookbook with recipes from some 83 chefs from across Belgium, the Netherlands and France.
"I didn't really know what to expect," says Barnes. "I was preparing myself to be chucked in the corner and doing the jobs that no one wanted to do but it's been really good from day
one. They'll give me a recipe, tell me how to do it and let me crack on with it. Not a lot of chefs are in their kitchens but he's here pretty much every day, walking around, tasting everything. It's brilliant."
Michel Roux on Tom Barnes
When Tom first arrived at Hof van Cleve he was obviously nervous and a little shy. Quite right. It's better to be like that. But slowly and surely he gained their trust and became one of them, which is excellent.
I would like to thank him for his choice of restaurant for the stage. The Roux Scholarship is now in its 32nd year and Hof van Cleve is now in my top 10 - and most probably top three or four - three-star restaurants. A lot of people in our trade, even three-star chefs, sell what I call hot air. What I love about Peter is he takes classic cooking and serves it in a contemporary way. So I'm grateful to Tom for choosing it as I would have still been blind to it. You learn from the people you help to develop in life and Tom has helped me.
There is one other thing on which I would like to compliment Tom. To be reserved and a little shy is a quality in life and he is a bit like that. But he shouldn't worry about it. The big mouth, the bully - that's not him. Tom will not be a flash in the pan. He will be around for a long time.
Tom Barnes and the Hof van Cleve experience
You've almost finished your stage. How have you found it?
It's been amazing. I've loved it. When I first came I was a bit shy and obviously they didn't know me either, but when I started to move around the sections a bit more it started to get to the point where, if I'd finished what I was doing, I could go and help somebody else if they needed it. I don't have to be looked after as much. If I've done a job before, they know
they can just ask me to get it done.
How different is the kitchen to L'Enclume's?
It's very different. At L'Enclume we only use British ingredients so I've been using a lot of stuff that we don't use. For example, at Hof van Cleve, they season things like the tartares with white soy instead of salt. I've used loads of citrus zests to season things as well, so that's been interesting.
It's been a dream of yours to come to this restaurant for many years. How did that come about?
I saw it on the World's 50 Best, clicked on the link and looked at the website. That was back when I first started cooking and I thought the food looked amazing. I was really interested to come here because of the style and the ingredients. It's quite classical cooking, but the presentation is very modern. Everything looks fantastic and everything they've given me to taste has been really incredible.
Given it's been a long-term dream, has the experience lived up to your expectations?
Oh yes, definitely. I'm really glad I got to come here. I was very nervous when I arrived but everyone has been really nice and every day has been a highlight. I've not had a bad day.
Have you had much time to work with Peter Goossens?
I have the opportunity to speak to Peter all the time. He's always here. Peter took me to the Callebaut chocolate factory, which was really good. I got to watch him do a demo and help the head chef and pastry chef cook at a press conference for a new cookbook coming out, called Mise En Place. He's really giving me the best experience that he can.
What have you learned from the stage so far?
I'm learning every day, picking up new techniques. They're really open. If you ask about something they'll go through it with you properly and give you the recipe. They're not too shy to give you anything - if you ask, they'll tell you.
How have you found the atmosphere here?
It's really nice. There's not really any shouting going on. Everyone knows what they're doing and works really well together. There's definitely a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.
I've seen kitchens in England - not at L'Enclume! - where the chefs are stitching each other up, but not here.
What's been the biggest challenge?
To be honest, it's gone a lot smoother than I thought it would. I don't speak the language but everyone speaks very good English and they've all been really good to me. I've not got anything negative to say about it at all. It's been amazing.
What are your long-term ambitions and how do you think your experience at Hof van Cleve will help?
I've just been promoted to head chef at L'Enclume so I'll be there for a while and a lot of the stuff I've learned here I won't be able to use at L'Enclume anyway, just because it's Simon Rogan's restaurant and style. When I do become a head chef [of my own place] I've got a lot of really good recipes from here I'll be able to take inspiration from. I'd like to do it one day but I'm not in a rush. I'm only 26 at the moment.
Through Simon Rogan, you've worked with two other Roux Scholars, Mark Birchall [2011 Scholar and recently promoted to chef director across all of Rogan's restaurants] and Dan Cox [executive head chef at Claridge's fine-dining destination Fera]. Did they inspire you to take part?#
It was more Mark because Dan started working down in London, but yes. Mark said, "right, you're doing it!" and after I got to the final in the first year, I wanted to do it again because I thought I might have a chance. Mark has definitely helped me a lot.
Do you think you need to have the experience of the competition before you can go all the way?
Yes, I think so, although I'm sure that there are people who have gone in and done it first time. It doesn't make it easy in the final, or anything like that, because you don't know what you have to do until you get there. But it does help to know what you're going to feel like and the space that you've got to work in. It's still horrible, though! It's still nerve-wracking. Every time a judge walks past you, you start secondguessing yourself.
How's life now that you're part of the Roux family?
It's brilliant. I've been enjoying my prizes! I got to go to France and dinner at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and the Cateys. That's all been excellent. I've been asked to take part in a calendar with Global Knives for the 30th anniversary. They allocated 12 scholars a different knife and asked us to do a dish for each month of the year, so I'm doing one for August - a chocolate and cherry dish.
What are your plans when you finish the stage?
I've got a week off, then I'm back to L'Enclume to get straight back into it.
On the menu at Hof van Cleve
- Native oysters from Zeeland 5/0 Algae, sesame, bergamot
- Scallop 'Erquiy St-Brieuc' Salsify, mimolette, brown butter
- Langoustine 'Guilvinec' Pumpkin, pork belly, green cabbage
- Hare Witlof, celeriac, Cox apple
- Selection of refined cheeses Antony, Callebaut, Van Tricht
- Mandarin Basil, salty lemon, sea buckthorn
- Chocolate 'Fortina' 65% Vanilla, nougat, Doyenne pear
- Chocolate and sweets
Roux Scholar 2015: could it be you?
If you think you have what it takes to be the next Roux Scholar, you have until 30 January 2015 to enter the competition. This year it's open to entrants who are in full-time employment as a chef in the UK and will be aged between 22 and 30 on 1 February 2015.
Entrants will need to submit a recipe for four people before 30 January using:
- Two whole guinea fowl, with or without giblets, weighing anywhere between 1.2kg and 1.6kg, plus 200g of chicken livers, trimmed, to be served plated and accompanied by two garnishes
- One garnish must include spinach leaves, the other will be the entrant's choice
- A sauce must accompany the dish
- Entrants will not be allowed to use or bring any pre-prepared stock or sauce whatsoever for the meat or vegetable dish, and none will be provided
The competition will be judged by Michel and Albert Roux and their sons Alain and Michel Jr as well as a line-up of other high-profile chefs, including first winner of the competition
Andrew Fairlie, Angela Hartnett, James Martin, David Nicholls, Gary Rhodes and Brian Turner.
The judges will select the best 18 recipes from those submitted. The contestants will be invited to cook their dish, along with a mystery box dessert challenge, at regional finals to
be held in Birmingham and London on Thursday 12 March 2015.
The final will be held in London on Monday 30 March 2015 and the winner announced at an award ceremony at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park the same evening.
The winner will receive an all-expenses-paid, three-month stage at a three-Michelin-starred restaurant anywhere in the world, as well as a number of food and hospitality-related prizes.
Full details of the competition and the entry process are available on the website at www.rouxscholarship.co.uk.
The competition is supported by companies including Bridor, The Caterer, Direct Seafoods, Fairfax Meadow, Global Knives, Hildon, Kikkoman, Laurent Perrier, L'Unico Caffe Musetti, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, RestaurantAssociates and Virgin Atlantic Airways.