When steak restaurant chain Black & Blue took over the site, St Clair stayed on as head chef and is now involved in a wider role within the group while remaining at his Southbank stove.
How I got to where I am now:
I come from Weatherby and I always wanted to be a chef as a youngster. So I went to work for Trust House Forte at the Leeds Bradford Posthouse hotel and then I got an internal transfer and moved to London to the Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane where I worked up to chef de partie level. Then I moved down the road to the InterContinental hotel working as chef de partie too for Peter Kromberg (former executive head chef) who was a great chef's chef in the cooking world. I then got another transfer and worked at the InterContinental in Geneva and experienced another country for a short time before coming back to London and the Le Meridien hotel.
My background was hotels until I was about 27 but it is all about gaining experience in a kitchen and a bit of life as well. The difference with hotels is there are lots of layers of management to go through to get something done; with restaurants like The Archduke you go to somebody and say 'can we have this' and if we have the budget we do it straight away and if not we wait. Also in hotels there is so much going on with fine dining, banqueting and different restaurants so it is great to gain that experience and bring it to a restaurant.
I then worked for Marco Pierre-White at The Criterion which wasn't successful; I wasn't happy there. Then about 15 years ago I came to The Archduke, just doing some casual work for them, they were looking for a head chef at another of their venues in Westminster. I got the job and stayed there for a few years before the job came up here and that was a real challenge for me because before Black and Blue took over it really needed some investment. It was awkward at first when they took over but I saw the vision and they liked what I was doing and we just settled in and kept going.
My biggest challenge:
It is difficult when a new owner comes in so that was a challenge; but just keeping up with the market is challenging too. We have always got things going on at The Archduke like functions for example and it is not just a steak restaurant and that is a challenge. You lose a few chefs you think you can't replace and you have to re-train people and that is a challenge. So there are challenges all the way and it is never just one hurdle you have to overcome.
My greatest achievement:
I have worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and I have kept standards in those high during trying times but achievements are on-going rather than just a single lifetime achievement. We are always trying to keep a standard and that is what makes a restaurant successful.
There are loads of great chefs around but when I was younger working at the InterContinental with Peter Kromberg he was quite a character but a great chef and a calm guy in the kitchen. He commanded so much respect from the young chefs because there must have been 50 working there. There can be a few parts of a kitchen that aren't happy with what others are doing and there can be backbiting but there it was calm and it was working towards the same goal.
My favourite dish:
At the moment it is steak! So whenever we go out we are always trying other people’s steaks to try and make a comparison with Black and Blue. The quality of the meat and where it comes from is so important. Lot of other places are opening up with that steak concept so for the brand to remain successful, which we are, you have got to have a fantastic product. Having a balance in a steak house with other items on the menu is crucial too; we always had a set-menu here for theatre-goers or those on a budget and Black & Blue saw it was working and kept it on.
My advice to young chefs:
We have guys who come into the kitchen who want to be Gordon Ramsay within a couple of months and they want some more money but they have got to get their head down and do the work and gain the experience before they can run away with their own imagination. But then once they have gained the experience there are opportunities there for them.
If I wasn't working in the restaurant industry I'd be...:
I would like to do something creative like photography or music but I find myself as a chef and I always wanted to be doing this!