Tell us about your forthcoming role at The Wild Rabbit:
I've been appointed executive chef at The Wild Rabbit. The chef there left and Carole (Bamford, the restaurant's owner) was looking for someone to run the place. It's a key move and a key restructure for her.
For me, moving there was the right decision to make. It’s in a part of the world I love - I spent eight years in the Cotswolds at Whatley Manor before I moved to London - and I also have the opportunity to work with a woman who is obsessed with food and products.
The Wild Rabbit is a phenomenal place. I’ll have access to some great quality products. You can’t get better in the UK in my opinion, from catching our own crayfish to the meat and vegetables. Even the hedgerows are organic. The venue is beautiful too.
It’s also a key move for myself and my family. Seeing my children (aged five and two) for two hours a week in London was not acceptable, so now I’ve taken an opportunity that allows me to provide a balance. I can see them at breakfast and I’ll be able to pick them up from school in the afternoon.
So was it also about improving your work/life balance?:
London was an amazing place. It was an amazing challenge running Launceston Place and I achieved a great deal very quickly, but there comes a point where you have to redress the balance.
When you work at this level you have to be completely driven and obsessed. That hasn't changed, but I need to give something back to my family and see my kids every day. Their quality of life will be hugely improved and I get to work at one of the best places in the country.
Are you planning on making any changes there?:
I'm starting there in mid-October and will spend the first few weeks settling in. Change is something that will happen, but I’m somebody who needs to feel a place first.
I didn’t make any changes for six weeks when I joined Launceston Place. You’ve got to understand what your customers want before you can make changes. I’m not a hopper, I’ve done five years here, four years there. This is a long-term objective and we’ll see what comes from it. I'm in no hurry to change everything and then move on.
How did you find working with a large company like D&D London (owner of Launceston Place)?:
I've been at Launceston Place for three and a half years and I run it as my own restaurant, but being part of a bigger company has its benefits. Working with a big company is hugely beneficial because there’s a huge support network there. When you have the corporate structure involved, that proper structure you can use it to your advantage. There’s no negativity there for me at all.
You're competing in the North East round of the current series of Great British Menu with Michael O'Hare and Mini Patel - what made you take part in the TV show?
I’ve been asked the last few years to be in Great British Menu, but TV is not really my bag. I’ve been cooking quietly away at the stoves for 20 years and have been fine with that.
However, that awareness and pushing forward, building a profile, is now what we do as chefs. It's part of the job now. You need to be out there and it’s great exposure. It’s a hard process, but it’s good exposure and a great experience.
How have you found the experience?:
It made me feel ill for the last three weeks before it was aired, I was really nervous. Yesterday (Wednesday, the main course episode) was car crash TV. For me, a six was disappointing, but it wasn’t that bad. I pull it right back round on the dessert (aired on Thursday), but I've been really pleased. The reception to GBM has been outstanding.
All the chefs involved in it before like Daniel (Clifford) and Sat (Bains) have said this year the series has been brought alive again and there’s a buzz round it. Michael (O’Hare) is obviously the TV star, but I think that between him, Mini and me, we’ve made it a great show. We are oil and water which is what has made it so interesting.
Marcus (Wareing) is supposed to be the hardest judge but he has made it fun as well. You know if you ‘f*ck up you’ll get it in the neck, but at the same time you look at him and respect his decision. He’s a good bloke, He’s an ambassador for our trade. He’s a brilliant chef and businessman.
This year's show has been about preparing food for the Women's Institute. Do you think chefs need to create different dishes for women than men?:
A lot of couples eat with us and will be open and say ‘Sean loved that dish but Victoria found it too heavy', but then others will say the opposite.
I eat out with several ladies who all eat like me, like a chef and that’s good. They’ll happily eat sweetbreads or kidneys. There are also women who love to eat a beautiful piece of fish with shellfish, but then there are blokes out there who’ll eat the same. It’s down to taste, not your gender. That’s what’s good about food, its objectional, it's down to personal choice.