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Top 100: Simon Rogan, Umbel Restaurant Group

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Written by:
Top 100: Simon Rogan, Umbel Restaurant Group

Overall ranking: 43 (64 in 2012)
Chef ranking: 10 (17 in 2012)

Snapshot
Together with his partner Penny Tapsell, Simon Rogan is the owner of the Umbel Restaurant Group, the umbrella company for multiple restaurants comprising L’Enclume restaurant and rooms, Aulis, a chef’s table and development kitchen, and neighbourhood restaurant Rogan & Co, all in Cartmel, and Roganic and Aulis London in the capital. Over a period of 16 years, Rogan’s flagship L’Enclume restaurant has achieved two Michelin stars, five AA rosettes, a perfect score in the Waitrose Good Food Guide (indeed, it held the top spot for four consecutive years up until 2017) and three Cateys – Newcomer Award (2005), Chef Award and Restaurateur of the Year – Independent (both 2013).

What we think
It was probably inevitable that Rogan would end up working with food in some shape or form. His father worked in the fruit and vegetable markets in Southampton and his early memories are of meeting his dad after work and revelling in the wonderful aromas coming from the varied produce – and then having a good rummage through the boxes to see what they could take home.
This, coupled with the fact that his mum worked long hours, meant that he slowly developed an interest in preparing the family meals. But that wasn’t to say cheffing was a done deal and, as Rogan moved into his teens, the possibility of a career in the kitchen was up against the chance to play professional football.
However, a broken leg put paid to any chances of a footballing career and, aged 14, a local job at a Greek restaurant in his native Southampton sparked his interest in the catering industry. After attending catering college, he took an apprenticeship at Rhinefield House hotel in Hampshire and truly started to understand the importance of seasonal produce.

His formative years included periods at Geddes restaurant in Southampton, Keith Floyd’s the Maltster’s Arms in Devon, Gordleton Mill in the New Forest, working under rising star Jean-Christophe Novelli, as well as stints working for Marco Pierre White and John Burton-Race.

After a number of high-profile roles in the south east, Rogan and Tapsell opened L’Enclume in 2002. It was awarded a Michelin star three years later in recognition of its experimental dishes using foraged herbs and vegetables from the surrounding land.

In 2008, they opened L’Enclume’s sister restaurant, Rogan & Co, which highlighted the best of British produce in a more relaxed environment. The following year, they set up their farm to provide fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers to their restaurants.

With his sights set high for L’Enclume, in 2010 Rogan launched Aulis, a research and development kitchen, adjacent to the restaurant and named after former L’Enclume chef de partie Aulis Lehtimäki, who had worked with Rogan for 10 years but had sadly passed away.

Later that year, L’Enclume was awarded the AA’s ultimate accolade – five AA rosettes – and in 2013 Cumbria’s leading restaurant was promoted to two Michelin stars.

Roganic, a pop-up in London’s Marylebone, followed in 2011. Running for two years, the bijou restaurant quickly won the Square Meal and BMW Best New Restaurant Award. The next year saw him appear on BBC 2’s Great British Menu, where he won the chance to cook at a banquet in honour of British Olympic athletes.

In 2013, he expanded to Manchester, opening the French, a fine-dining eatery offering tasting menus, and the 200-cover Mr Cooper’s House and Garden brasserie at the four-AA-star, 312-bedroom Midland hotel. Rogan was brought in by QHotels to breathe new life into the restaurant, which had been open since 1903. In the first 12 months, QHotels reported a 500% increase in bookings.

In the same year, Rogan was awarded Restaurateur of the Year – Independent and the Chef Award, as well as an honorary degree from Lancaster University.

In May 2014, Rogan launched Fera at the five-AA-starred Claridge’s hotel in London, and it was awarded a Michelin star four months later. He went on to open the first incarnation of Aulis London there.

In 2016, Rogan added AA Chef of the Year to his never-ending list of achievements, but the following month announced his departure from the French when he handed over the reins to his former head chef, Adam Reid. Similarly, chef Robert Taylor stayed on as head of Mr Cooper’s.

Rogan’s departure from Claridge’s and Fera followed in April 2017. At the time, Rogan said it was to make way for a permanent Roganic site, which he had originally operated as a successful pop-up in Marylebone from 2011 to 2013. He brought the concept back to London in January this year on the same street as the original Roganic. Meanwhile, Aulis London, an eight-seat private chef’s table, relocated to Soho and opened last October.

Further information
Tom Barnes returns to Simon Rogan to head up Rogan & Co >>

Simon Rogan set to take over L’Autre Pied site for Roganic >>

Simon Rogan set for London return >>

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