Even John’s extensive culinary experience, which spans over 40 years, couldn’t have prepared him for his super busy start at Ellingham. We thought we’d treat him to a quick break, a brew and chat to find out how he’s finding his new role.
How’s things been since joining Ellingham?
Busy. Ha! It’s been great, busy, but really great.
Although we weren’t running as many weddings as usual for this time of year, things were just as busy behind the scenes. As well as investing in staff and new equipment, one of my first jobs was to create the new 2022 menus for all our couples. It was important I spoke with the team to get a real understanding of what we currently offered, and how we could really drive standards and give people the best wedding experience possible at the Hall.
Over the last month, the team and I have ran a number of tasting events where we’ve catered for over 70 couples, and I look forward to the Autumn when we will be running more of these experiences. I’ve also been working closely with producers to ensure my kitchen brigade have the highest quality of ingredients available to them – this year, we’re proud to say we’re working with more local suppliers than ever, driving our sustainability focus at the Hall.
Taking you back, how did you start your culinary career?
I started my career back when I was just 18 at college. I was privileged to receive an award at the Savoy London for ‘Outstanding Student of the Year’ twice. Following this I was appointed as an apprentice at the InterContinental Hotel in London’s Park Lane and the chain took me to France, Germany and Switzerland.
Moving back to Northumberland with my wife, I opened my own restaurant in Alnwick and owned The Tankerville Arms in Eglingham, before moving to Newcastle United to head up the kitchen brigade at The Magpie Room. In the role, I helped steer the restaurant to the Good Food Guide; the first Premier League club to reach the achievement. Since then, I have worked in several well-known restaurants and wedding venues locally, including The Cookie Jar in Alnwick.
What has been your proudest moment as a Chef?
I was chosen to cook for the Queen while I was at Newcastle United and that is the highlight of my career. She was in the region in 1997 and had just opened the Siemens factory and was received by Sir John Hall for lunch. She was a really nice person and it was such an honour to be chosen to cook for her.
With the 2022 menus now finalised, what would you say are your favourite dishes?
It’s a tough choice. For starters, I’d say the Cheese Soufflé, followed by the Cajun Fried Seabass. The one thing the team already know about me, is I’m a real sweet tooth. I love my desserts, so that’s the hardest to choice for me. I’d have to say Bakewell Tart, I could eat them all day and night!
What are you most looking forward to at Ellingham?
I’m looking forward to helping Ellingham Hall become bigger and better. I’m also so excited to be working with such a friendly team – there’s a real buzz about Ellingham, from the venue, to the staff and all the couples I’ve interacted with so far. The team here are lovely and it’s great to work with such a professional group of people who really care.