Ricki Weston: “It’s good to now be making my mark”

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Whatley Manor executive chef Ricki Weston

Related tags: Whatley Manor, Ricki Weston, Niall Keating, Chefs, The Dining Room, Fine dining, Cotswolds

The 29-year-old executive chef at Whatley Manor on taking the reins from a big name chef, Michelin stars and his plans for the high-profile Cotswold hotel’s brasserie.

What was it like to takeover from Niall Keating earlier this year? 

I didn’t actually find it that daunting as I knew the kitchen and the team so well. I joined as head chef under Niall about four years ago​ so I was part of the team that got two stars in The Dining Room (the Malmesbury hotel’s fine dining flagship). The only thing that wasn’t familiar was creating my own menu, but that’s a process I’ve enjoyed. It’s good to now be making my mark.

What direction have you taken the food? 

Before we had a strong Asian influence in The Dining Room but we’ve dropped that to focus on traditional British food and provenance of ingredients. We’ve got fantastic produce all around us in the Cotswolds - it’s a shame not to celebrate that. We launched the menu on 4 February and we had a star by the time the guide came out (on 16 February). Michelin came in between those dates so it was definitely an assessment of the new menu.

What’s on your current menu? 

The tasting menu starts with snacks in the kitchen, including beetroot encased in suet pine and thyme; and beef with date and whey. People then move into the restaurant itself, where dishes include scallop with cucumber and trout roe; turbot with hispi and hollandaise; and Jacob’s ladder which we serve in a burnt leek consommé. 

What about the hotel’s more casual restaurant Grey’s Brasserie?

From July, we are changing the name to simply Grey’s to reflect a shift to a more high-end a la carte offering. We’re going to be offering more prime ingredients and an experience that is more seasonally driven. Myself and Sue (Williams, the hotel’s high profile general manager) think it’s a better fit for our market. We want to give people the best possible experience. Our kitchen services both The Dining Room and Grey’s Brasserie so I’m able to keep a close eye on both. 

Tell us about your background 

I’m originally from West Sussex and worked in a number of local restaurants including Whites Kitchen in Steyning and at South Lodge Hotel near Horsham, where I worked for both Steven Edwards at Camellia and for Matt Gillan at The Pass (which held a Michelin star at the time). I wanted to learn a bit more about Asian food so worked at Wabi in Horsham under Scott Hallsworth. After that I spent three years at Restaurant Sat Bains. That was a big one for me, the alumni that have come out of that restaurant is insane. It was an amazing experience. I learnt a lot about cooking and professionalism there. 

How did The Dining Room attract a Michelin Green star? 

We’re very careful with food waste and non-food waste and we also look to reduce our carbon footprint by growing our own and sourcing very locally. We recently employed a new head gardener (David Pearce) and that’s already making a big difference. We’re now producing far more produce for the restaurants thanks to his no dig planting system, which makes for bigger yields. We’re constantly speaking to our suppliers about how we can work together to reduce the use of plastics and further reduce carbon footprints. 

And you have your own cows now?

They’re within the fields that surround Whatley Manor. We work with a farmer called Tom Wakefield who rears organic 100% grass-fed Aberdeen Angus. We get a whole cow every two to three months. We age it in-house and then utilise every bit of it. We use the prime cuts for The Dining Room and Greys Brasserie and the mince goes into staff food. It’s good to be able to offer the team really high quality meals - we need to look after them because without them we haven’t got a business. 

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