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This much I know: Dominic Chapman

05 February 2016 by
This much I know: Dominic Chapman

Dominic Chapman left the Michelin-starred Royal Oak in Maidenhead in 2014 to open his first solo venture, the Beehive at White Waltham in Berkshire. He tells Neil Gerrard what he has learned

I absolutely love running my own business, but it can take over your life. So you need to remember that you have a family and they need a little bit of your attention as well. My wife loves it too, and when I am at home she will come in and do things and add little touches to the restaurant, which is really nice. The hardest thing is making other people believe in your vision and trying to create that thing you are looking for and getting everyone else going in the same direction. But I am really enjoying it, genuinely. I wish I did it 10 years ago!

You don't want to tempt fate so I am very careful when I say this, but I have a brilliant team.

I'm a sixth-generation restaurateur. People talk about things being in your blood and my whole life I have been around it - grand-fathers, great-grandfathers, uncles. I remember going to Master Innholders conferences as a kid and meeting Harry Murray and people like that, and going to cooking competitions when I was very young. All of this sort of stuff is in there somewhere. I don't think about it that much, but when the going gets tough you dig deep for that kind of experience and it must help.

I ask my dad's advice quite a lot [Kit Chapman is proprietor of the Castle Hotel in Taunton, Somerset]. He is massively passionate about this industry still. He came up a couple of months ago and he was raving that it was the best meal he had here, but he can be very critical as well. With new restaurants it takes time to settle in and find your feet, so he has been critical in the past but that criticism is useful.

I am totally obsessed with menus. Making sure the spelling is correct and things are laid out in a proper manner so the food sounds delicious, and when you read the menu you want to eat it straight away. That is key to what I do and I love that.

You don't want to overcomplicate things when it comes to food. It really is about simplicity and good ingredients. I often find chefs put a whole load of work into creating a dish and when the ingredients aren't quite as good as they should be, it lets the whole dish down. It is all about seasonality and it is really important to have a relationship with your suppliers. If you have a good relationship, then you get in the good gear.

The other thing you realise when you take on a business is that everything costs money. You get your fridge guy in to have a look at something and you get a £100 bill. Sometimes when you work for someone else, you don't think about that. That was quite a
wake-up call.

We want to achieve a huge amount. We are on a mission. We have got the right people in the right place to make it happen and now it is up to us to be conscientious and careful and walk the walk instead of talking the talk. I don't chase things, but I would love a Michelin star. To have a Michelin star in my own business would be the greatest achievement ever.

CV

1996 Commis at the Chiswick, London

1998 Chef de partie, Kensington Place, London

2000 Chef de partie, the Fat Duck, Bray, Berkshire

2002 Sous chef, Kensington Place

2004 Head chef, the Hinds Head, Bray, Berkshire

2007 Head chef, the Royal Oak, Paley Street, Maidenhead, Berkshire

2014 Chef-patron, the Beehive, White Waltham, Berkshire

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