Flash-grilled: Matt Sworder

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Matt Sworder chef The Corner House restaurants Kent

Related tags: Chefs, Kent

Matt Sworder is chef owner of The Corner House restaurants in Minster and Canterbury. This May sees the launch of The Corner House Cookbook, which is billed as a celebration of Kentish produce.

What was your first job?
An emergency kitchen porter for my dad when the KP didn’t show up. I was eight at the time! 

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?  
Peanut butter on a fresh banana, the ultimate pick me up. 

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons for lunch a couple of years ago. Very special indeed. The attention to detail in all parts of the guest experience was amazing and meeting Raymond Blanc was a privilege.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why? 
I have a lot of respect for my former boss Adam Byatt, Trinity is a special restaurant  and I was part of the team that opened up his second restaurant Bistro Union, also in Clapham.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
Recently I have really enjoyed spending time in my garden setting it up for the summer, I love the idea of working in gardens as a landscape gardener. I would have to be self employed as I can't see myself working for anyone else anymore having run my own restaurants for almost six years.

What is your biggest regret?
I don’t like to have regrets, you play the cards you are dealt and stick by your decisions. I don’t think Adam Byatt knows but I was the second person bidding for the Bistro Union site, he won and then I decided to take a job working for him where I got to see the project evolve. At the time, I was a little gutted to lose out on the site as Abbeville Road in Clapham is a great location for a restaurant and the old Café Rouge site was a cracking leasehold agreement. However, in truth I do believe that if I’d secured the site I’d still be in London and would not have had the opportunities I’ve had with The Corner House in Kent and building a multi-site restaurant operation and starting a family here.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Untidiness.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
When guests are asked whether they would like their steak, blue, rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, well done and burnt yet we still get so many requests for the rare side of medium rare and things like that. We are already giving them plenty of options but sometimes that just isn’t enough... 

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Baked Alaska. Ice cream in the oven come on… it’s totally delicious. 

Describe your cooking style in three words
Simple done well. 

Most overrated food?
Foie gras.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
No shows. 

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
Some of the early days at Minster saw some shocking reviews as we changed the restaurant a lot from its previous style.

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
I would love to cook for Sir Richard Branson and then discuss with him how he managed to achieve such successful growth in his company, he is such an inspiration.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Work in the best place you can, keep your head down, learn your trade and chase the skills and personal development, not the money.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My Magimix. 

What do you cook at home on your days off?
I am experimenting with sourdough at home at the moment and really enjoying the baking. But my wife does most of the cooking at home. 

What’s your earliest food memory? 
Avocado. I loved it as a baby and still do, it’s beautiful.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Learn to walk before you start to run.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I have been pretty lucky to date, no near death experiences.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
Beach or the garden. We are lucky enough to have some incredible beaches locally. My garden, whilst small, is a mini paradise.

Tipple of choice?
Gin.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Beef Wellington, dauphinoise potatoes, beef jus, grilled hispi cabbage. 

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