Overall ranking: 64 (ranked 88 in 2011)
Chef ranking: 17 (ranked 30 in 2011)
Simon Rogan – Snapshot
Simon Rogan is the chef-proprietor of fine-dining restaurant-with-rooms L’Enclume and English brasserie Rogan and Company, both in Cartmel, Cumbria, as well as the 35-seat Roganic in London’s Marylebone. Currently, L’Enclume holds two Michelin stars and is one of only two restaurants in the UK to hold a score of 10/10 in the Good Food Guide.
Simon Rogan – Career guide
Simon Rogan’s career started with an apprenticeship under Paul Norman at Rhinefield House Hotel in the New Forest, before going on to work for Jean Christophe Novelli on and off for eight years at restaurants such as Geddes in Southampton, Nansidwell House Hotel in Falmouth and Floyd’s pub near Totnes. During these formative years he also spent time with the likes of Marco Pierre White and John Burton Race, before spending two years in Paris at the three-Michelin starred Lucas Carton restaurant.
In 1999 he took on the head chef role at newly opened Adlington Place in Croydon, before leaving to launch a solo career funded by his own savings and a bank loan. When two potential premises in Brighton both fell through, he and partner Penny Tapsell overcame their reservations about working far from London and took the leasehold on a half-renovated former smithy in Cartmel, in the southern Lake District.
In late 2002 L’Enclume opened its doors, with Rogan’s uber-modern French cooking quickly making waves, particularly for his use of herbs that had fallen out of favour in kitchens. A switch to offering just tasting menus didn’t put people off, and the site grew to become a destination restaurant among foodies. The restaurant gained its first Michelin star in 2005 and added a second in 2012. Currently the restaurant also holds five AA rosettes and, along with Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, is one of just two restaurants in the UK to hold a score of 10/10 in the Good Food Guide.
In 2008 he and Tapsell launched a second restaurant, Rogan and Company – a more casual brasserie – also in Cartmel. The following year saw the takeover of an organic farm to supply produce to the two restaurants and the opening of a kitchen research facility Aulis, which specialises in the rediscovery of historical ingredients.
In June 2011 Rogan’s much-mooted return south was finally realised when he took over a two-year lease on a site in Marylebone, London, opening the 35-seat Roganic. Like L’Eclume, the restaurant only serves tasting menus, and because of its temporary lease, has been publicised as an extended pop-up restaurant.
Rogan added to his growing Cartmel empire in September 2012 when he took over local pub the Pig & Whistle, which opened in October following a significant refurbishment.
Simon Rogan – what we think
Billed by some as the Heston Blumenthal of the north-west – a label he isn’t completely comfortable with (“it pisses me off to be called the poor man’s Heston,” he told Caterer and Hotelkeeper in 2010) – Rogan’s boundary-pushing cuisine has built a legion of fans over the last eight years. What’s more, his achievement of a perfect 10 in the 2013 Good Food Guide not only put him on a par with Blumenthal, but capped a year in which he was also elevated to two stars by the Michelin Guide.
His use of 40 types of herb, plus his vast array of equipment and cooking methods have created a unique and highly distinguishable cuisine, which Good Food Guide editor Liz Carter labelled “mind blowing”.
“He does incredible things with vegetables,” she said. “He teases out flavours that you didn’t know were there. It’s because he’s actually growing very carefully. He does say that a vegetable will be growing up at the farm until about 4 o’clock that afternoon and then you sit down and eat it a few hours later.”
As a testament to L’Enclume’s popularity, while Cartmel offered little in the way of top-end restaurants before Rogan and Tapsell’s arrival, their initial 40-cover, seven-bedroomed business, which employed five staff upon opening, has grown to two 50- and 100-seat restaurants with 12 rooms, a 50-cover pub and a separate research kitchen. Factor in his London restaurant Roganic and Rogan’s influence now spans England, while his staff numbers stand at 70.
His move to the capital in 2011, with a two-year lease on the Roganic premises, provided a means of “dipping our toes in the London water”, he has previously told Caterer and Hotelkeeper. Suspicions that his food would prove a big hit down south were swiftly confirmed, with the restaurant picking up Square Meal’s BMW Best New Restaurant award autumn 2011. In late 2012, Rogan announced that he would look for new premises when the current lease expires. “We have got a couple of really interesting ideas but we don’t have the time to sit down and work out what we are going to do,” he told Square Meal. “At the moment we would really like to transmit the feeling and style of Roganic elsewhere, but on a larger scale.”
His accolades put him in the very upper echelons of chefs working in the UK at present, while his brave decision to set up his first restaurant so far from London has been vindicated, and sets a worthy example to chefs who feel they must gravitate to the capital when going it alone.
Rogan has also proved an excellent mentor over the years, and in 2011 his head chef Mark Birchall won the prestigious Roux Scholarship.