Tell me more about your plans for the White Post
I hope to establish the White Post as a destination pub and restaurant with rooms. The food will be modern British with my sense of humour very much in evidence - such as the edible cigarettes, complete with (pollen) ash – which I’ve done in the past.
Produce will be a combination of seasonal and foraged ingredients. I will source food from as many local farmers, growers and producers as possible and there will be a choice of excellent local cask ales and draft beers.
As well as the restaurant and bar, the White Post has two double bedrooms and a family bedroom with en-suite, toiletries, complimentary tea and coffee making facilities, LCD TV, and complimentary WiFi.
Why have you decided to open your own restaurant now?
It’s been my dream for 23 years! Unfortunately until now, a combination of finances and suitable properties conspired against my going solo, but the opportunity offered at the White Post was too good to pass up - especially since it already has a well loved history of straddling the borders of both Dorset and Somerset.
You’re leaving the relatively safety of a full-time job as executive chef to start up your own business – how do you feel about going it alone?
Obviously it’s a risk, and not one I’ve taken lightly. I have a young family, and security is important. That said, I’ve been getting things into place, and am comfortable with making the move now. It’s time.
You’re opening a restaurant in a pub at a time when quality is known to have improved greatly in this sector, what do you think it is about the pub today that is attracting chefs and what is it they are doing that is making them so successful?
There’s a whole rural community throughout the UK that’s crying out for good food that’s reasonably priced: not everyone can afford to head to London or one of the major cities, but that doesn’t mean customers don’t have the money to eat out. The pub model allows chefs to really engage with a local population, but also showcase local and seasonal produce, and depending what style they go for, not only can a local clientele be developed, but if we do a good enough job, we start to become a destination.
What do you love (and hate) about British pubs?
It really varies from pub to pub - each one is different. A truly local pub can be a joy, because everyone knows each other, and there’s a real sense of community. On the flip side, if you’re new to the area and trying to break into that clique, it can be intimidating.
In general I love that both operators and independents are learning to support local growers and farmers: it’s important, and you can really get the best produce. The thing I hate is that service in pubs can be so variable. It really is personality driven.
Where do you hope to be/what do you hope to be doing in five years’ time?
I’d like the White Post to have a dedicated regular clientele. Hopefully we’ll have won some good awards, which would mean enough capital to buy it outright.
What advice would you give those starting out?
Cheffing isn’t a job - it’s really got to be an obsession. While you’ll learn on the job, you should be like a sponge - reading, getting an idea of what’s going on in culinary terms. Not a popular idea, but brush up on your maths: it’s important when it comes to costing out dishes, multiplying up recipes etc.
Who do you most admire in the industry and why?
If I were to choose a British chef, I’d have to say Simon Hopkinson: he’s always had a great simple style - letting the produce speak for itself. My other choice would be Albert Roux. Having applied for the Roux scholarship, I really got to know him, and he’s amazing: fantastic sense of humour, huge knowledge and he’s a keen fisherman like me!
If you were only allowed to make one dish again what would it be and why?
I’d have to say bread. I never tire of the fact that with just a few simple ingredients you can make something so tasty and complex. And of course if you’re having a bad day, kneading dough is a great stress reliever.