In one of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings in the UK this year, Alyn Williams at The Westbury opened for business in November 2011, set on the site previously occupied by Artisan.
It's the first independent venture for Alyn, who has spent the last eight years working with Marcus Wareing, four years of which were spent as head chef at Marcus Wareing's double starred restaurant in The Berkeley, in London's Knightsbridge. Previous to this Alyn was a sous chef at Petrus for two and a half years, before moving to The Berkeley.
Now considered to be amongst the UK's leading talents, the highly respected chef has also helped Gordon Ramsay with the opening of his restaurant in Claridges. Alyn actually spent a year as sous chef at restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea and a further two years as head chef at the Groucho Club in Soho.
At the age of 44, Alyn has been extremely keen to take on that next challenge. Opening his own establishment has given him that impetuous.
"It certainly seemed like a natural progression for me to take this step. Getting it right is so important," said Alyn. "I'm placing an equal emphasis on all aspects of dining. If the food was amazing, but the atmosphere was sterile then for sure this venture wouldn't work, and I wouldn't be creating what I want to achieve.
"For the past year while we have been setting up and renovating the restaurant in preparation for opening, I have considered every base to ensure that nothing is left to chance. In my book service is so important - right up there with the standard of food. Recruiting the right people has taken time, but I knew the importance of having front-of-house staff who have a personality and know their stuff. I hate it when you go somewhere and it's robotic and lacking charm."
In the kitchen
Despite the renovations front of house, Alyn inherited an extremely good kitchen set-up, although he did still add one extremely important piece of equipment, which is proving to be a real winner. After viewing what was available on the market, Alyn was extremely taken by the Hatco Salamander.
"I knew I would need a top quality grill, so I looked to source a top one to meet our needs," said Alyn. I went for Hatco's Quick-Therm Salamander (QTS-2) and I am so impressed. It's so versatile and wonderfully energy efficient."
Hatco's Quick-Therm Salamander (QTS-2) is the ultimate, energy-conscious replacement to traditional models, offering energy savings of up to 79 percent by switching itself on only when a plate or pan is put beneath it. Removal of the plate turns off the heating elements.
"Not only can I use it for all my grilling needs, but I can use it for a number of other purposes such as glazing and caramelising. I make a Fillet of Hake as part of our lunch menu which comes with seaweed butter. The salamander is great to caramelise the butter. It's also great for warming dishes through.
"To be honest it's the best grill device that I've ever worked with. I really can't believe how quickly it heats things up. It only takes seconds to get fully up to speed. I really save on energy costs in the process because I don't have to use it on its maximum heat setting and I don't have to have it turned on all the time."
The Quick-Therm Salamander can cook, grill, reheat or hold all kinds of food. It also finishes products and produces the classic 'au gratin' effect, perfect for chefs serving traditional favourites such as hotpots, pies, pastries and toasted sandwiches and desserts.
It also drastically reduces food preparation time with its unparalleled start-up speed. "The patented 'instant-on' heating elements are ready-to-use in just eight seconds at a cooking temperature of 23oC, offering a choice of eight holding temperature levels from 40Â°C to 70Â°C," said Mark. "At a time when fast casual dining is showing most growth, it is ideal for helping operators speed up service.
A world of difference
Alyn has ten chefs in place working in the kitchen and ten front-out-house staff to handle the demands of the 45-seater restaurant. Everything from the china and the cutlery has been sourced by Alyn to create an exquisite theme in this first-class establishment. There's even a private glass walled Wine Room (where eight people can dine surrounded by 600 bottles) plus an adjacent private dining room for up to 18. Rosewood panelling throughout, coupled with chairs covered in light cream velvet and bespoke hand-blown glass lighting help to bring the elegance of the restaurant to life.
With Alyn's celebrated chef roots his dishes are particularly special. He places a strong emphasis on sourcing the very best quality products and this is typified in his high calibre dishes that utilise scintillating combinations of ingredients. These include delights such as Cotswold white chicken with smoked egg and char-grilled leeks and Foie Gras served with pickled sand carrots and liquorice.
"I want people to come into my restaurant and leave the outside world at the door," explained Alyn. "I think by having a creative environment it helps to generate a wonderful atmosphere. Striking a balance between having accomplished staff who know what they are doing and who are not overbearing is key to helping to generate any success."
National Chef of the Year
Despite taking on the challenge of setting up his own restaurant Alyn recently took part in the illustrious competition to become The National Chef of the Year.
This top award, which is run by The Craft Guild of Chefs, saw more than 120 entries compete for the ultimate industry prize. Following a gruelling final at the Restaurant Show, Alyn was named as the runner up.
"The National Chef of the Year is the one title that I would really like to win," said Alyn. "Of course I am happy with how well I did, but of course it is my dream to one day win it. This competition really enables you to try harder and do better everyday.
"I never want to be accused of resting on my laurels. I don't want to get overconfident with my abilities and I believe that by learning and adapting different skills it's all part of the process of growing not only as a chef, but as a person."
For more information on the Hatco range, call 01509 260140 or visit www.hatcocorp.com
This case study was provided by Imperial and Hatco