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Loving life in hospitality: Simon Bryant

17 March 2017 by
Loving life in hospitality: Simon Bryant

The head chef at Hamilton's restaurant in Grovefield House hotel in Burnham, Buckinghamshire talks to Katie Pathiaki about having creative freedom

What was your first job in the hospitality industry?

What did you do during your time there?
I started on the breakfast section, moved to vegetables and then hot food, where I cooked meat and fish. Everyone was incredibly helpful, always taking the time to show me what to do.

Did you always want to be a chef?
When I left school I started a carpentry apprenticeship, but it wasn't for me. I couldn't find the right motivation to become really passionate about it. A friend of mine was already working in the kitchen at the Hilton and he said he would try and get me an interview.

Did anyone ever try to talk you out of pursuing it?
No; my wife and parents have all been really supportive, and they can see how happy and focused I am to succeed.

Have you had a mentor along the way, either formally or informally?
Yes - I would say Daniel Galmiche, who was head chef while I worked at Cliveden House hotel between 2007 and 2009. I was a commis chef, but he took time with all the trainees to demonstrate everything. His hands-on guidance was really inspirational and it blew me away, to be honest. Nothing was ever too much trouble for him.

What attracted you to Grovefield House hotel?
I worked at Grovefield for five years previously but I left - I didn't feel there was room for progression as there was an established kitchen team. I have always felt that there is a good team here throughout the hotel.

We're given creative freedom, which is essential for stimulation as a chef. Paul Twomey is one of the best general managers I have worked with - he is very involved with the kitchen, always trying our food and giving constructive criticism.

On a personal level, both of my sisters were married at the hotel.

How would you describe the style at Hamilton's?
It's a modern take on classical dining - taking popular traditional dishes and pushing them to the next level using modern techniques, such as dehydrating, gels and powders.

What problems did you first encounter when you became head chef, and how did you overcome them? Bringing in a new team - the right people weren't available at the time. We now have a really good team that we engage with - I ask them for ideas for two starters, mains and puddings, and we improve and refine them together to get them on the menu.

Do you have a motto? Always strive to set the highest standards and maintain them.

What's the most inspiring day you've had in your career?
Catering for Steven Gerrard's wedding at Cliveden - he was such a lovely guy and asked the kitchen team to join in the evening celebration. We even held a barbecue for his family and friends the next day.

What do you love most about your job? The challenge of sourcing the most seasonal and local produce possible. I also love seeing our diners' reactions, and I talk to everyone after service to get their feedback.

What do you have planned for the rest of 2017? Bringing the community back to the restaurant - re-establishing it in the local area as a great place to dine. We change our menu monthly and there are some good offers. I'd like to put my stamp on the menu.

What do you hope to achieve in your career in the future? To own a restaurant one day - my family and I have discussed it. Ideally, it would be somewhere in rural England where I could source all the produce from the local butcher and farmer, etc. That's the dream.

CV

  • 2015-present Head chef, Hamilton's restaurant, Grovefield House hotel, Burnham, Buckinghamshire
  • 2014-2015 Sous chef, Chequers Inn, Wooburn Common, Buckinghamshire
  • 2013-2014 Sous chef, Bell and Dragon, Cookham
  • 2011-2013 Sous chef, Taplow House hotel, Buckinghamshire
  • 2010-2011 Chef de partie, Grovefield house
  • 2007-2009 Commis chef, Cliveden House hotel, Taplow, Berkshire
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