Daniel Clifford on new pub The Flitch of Bacon and Great British Menu

By Emma Eversham contact

- Last updated on GMT

Daniel Clifford on new pub The Flitch of Bacon and Great British Menu

Related tags: Great british menu, Chef

Daniel Clifford, chef-patron of the two Michelin-starred Midsummer House, speaks exclusively to Big Hospitality about returning to Great British Menu and opening his own pub, the Flitch of Bacon, in Essex.

Tell us about your new pub venture The Flitch of Bacon

It's in a beautiful 16th Century building in Dunmow in Essex which we're refurbishing. I’m hoping to open it in November once we’ve sorted out some issues with planning.

There will be space for 58 inside and 40 in the garden, plus we've got three bedrooms so we hope we'll get people wanting to come and stay a night or two with us. 

It will be a pub that serves classics like steak and kidney pudding or good shepherds pie and Sunday roast, not mass produced stuff. It will be a chance to do the dishes we can't do at Midsummer House, but it’s also about bringing a rural area back to life and giving it the love that it needs.

I want to create food that people will travel for. We weren't going to put a reservation policy in place,  but people won’t travel if they aren’t guaranteed a table, so we will be taking reservations.

The team’s in place already. Danny Gill, my former head chef at Midsummer House is going to be chef patron. Alan Taylor is going to be the general manager who was my assistant restaurant manager here. Victoria Beachnor is the sous chef and she’s done seven and a half years with me. 

Why did you decide to open a pub? 

I’ve lived in the area for eight years and struggled to find anywhere I’d take my family to eat. This property came up and I went for it. It’s in a beautiful location, surrounded by thatched houses and I had the same feeling when I walked through the door as I did when I first went to Midsummer House. 

Tom (Kerridge) put pubs on the map as far as I’m concerned. He’s the inspiration behind this, but I also see it as a chance to put food on that I don’t do at Midsummer. It will be good food served in a pub environment. Everyone should be able to come in and enjoy a pint and a main course. 

Also, its times in this day and age you either support the staff who work for you or they run off and go and work somewhere else, so for me it was about giving something to my staff and an opportunity to achieve what I’ve achieved. 

Would you like to open more?

It’s interesting that the Galvin Brothers are going into pubs now​ too. They live in the same village as me so there will be some healthy competition going forward, but I’m not setting up a company like them.

This is to give Dan and Alan an opportunity to blossom in their careers. I don’t want to do a chain of businesses. 

The issue of staff recruitment and retention in the industry is one that isn't going away, what's the solution?

When I got two Michelin stars we were the eleventh restaurant to get that accolade, now there are 19 restaurants with two stars. A chef can walk out of my kitchen tomorrow and go and get a job in another. Every two star restaurant is crying out for staff.

Staff have a choice now, they can pick and choose, so it's a tricky situation. You could pay chef de parties £40k and you'd have loads of them coming to you, but that’s not sustainable, because you put your prices up, customers stop coming and you have to close your restaurant. 

Daniel Clifford: Industry must tackle chef shortage or face demise

We have to engage more with young people and even go into schools to tell them about what we do. We need to start working with the colleges and giving our time up to influence young people and say this is a career you can enjoy. Chefs all moan about it, but it’s up to us to go into schools and colleges and get youngsters interested, so there are more people coming through. 

You’ve competed in Great British Menu four times and made it through to the final twice. Do you have any tips for this year’s competitors?

The best tip you can give anyone is give the brief to 10 of your friends that aren’t in the industry and get them to read it.

Chefs get the brief and they automatically take dishes off their own menus, but that’s not what it’s about. It's about designing four new dishes around a brief that are nothing to do with your restaurant,but around a set theme which this year is the Women's Institute. 

Researching for the brief is like doing school homework. Don’t just think of it as a food programme it’s a history programme too and the more background data you can pick up the better it will be for you. 

What's it like appearing on the show?

You run your kitchen on a daily basis, but when you’re there it’s a completely different beast. That kitchen’s like nothing you’ve seen before. You can be as confident as hell but that kitchen can spin anyone out. You’ve got six to eight cameras in your face and it really puts the pressure on. 

What are the benefits of appearing in Great British Menu?

For me winning the Great British Menu has been one of the greatest things for my restaurant and I don’t think enough people don’t take it seriously enough. It’s a massive privilege to win it. It puts bums on seats, but it’s the Great British Menu. You look at the people who have won it and you want to be a part of that. 

Daniel Clifford will be judging London and the South East round of Great British Menu which will be broadcast on BBC Two next month.

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