Despite being invited by Electrolux to cook at its temporary London restaurant concept The Cube this year and enjoying success on the TV show Great British Menu, Clifford said he ‘still had a love affair’ with the Cambridgeshire restaurant he opened 14 years ago and would not leave it while his name was above the door.
“I’d prefer to support the boys who have worked for me and make them shareholders and let them run something as I’ve realised I can’t be in two places at once,” he told BigHospitality during an interview at The Restaurant Show earlier this month.
“If I’ve got the right chefs who want to do something and need backing I’m more than happy to support them, but I’m never going to do a second venue on my own.”
The chef speaks with experience on the subject. Two years ago he decided to close his Essex pub The Headley, which he opened under his name with The Crown Group in 2007, because he couldn’t focus on both.
“We opened the pub because Midsummer has always run very finely on cash, so we opened the pub to support Midsummer, but it ended up being the other way around,” he said.
“It was too big, it was a 180-seater and the staff costs were through the roof. We also found out it was a weekend business so we had to staff it over weekends.
“It was a massive learning curve. It proved to me I can’t be in two places at once and I’ve still got a love affair with Midsummer, so for me to step away from that it was a very personal transaction and I didn’t want Midsummer to suffer. I still have goals I want to achieve there.”
Some of the chefs who have worked with Clifford at Midsummer House have gone on to be a success elsewhere. Two - Mark Poynton and Tim Allen - saw their restaurants they run achieve their first Michelin stars in this year's guide.
Clifford, who has worked under Marco Pierre White, said it was important to support the staff he worked with and that he always taught them to get the basics right first.
"The industry needs to support the talent of the future, but we also need to go back to basics or we are going to end up with no history in our cuisine. We need to stop putting things in bags and poaching it and start roasting it again."
Find out more about what Clifford has to say on the success of Midsummer House alumni Matt Gillan, Mark Poynton and Tim Allen as well as his tips for running a successful restaurant, his experience on Great British Menu and at The Cube in our exclusive video on site tomorrow.