A life in the day of a Michelin Star Chef

on 03 November 2017.

Roger JonesMichelin Star Chef, Sommelier and general entrepreneur Roger Jones reveals his secrets for Michelin Star quality at his restaurant The Harrow at Little Bedwyn in this exclusive interview with Ginnie Davis.

As I approach The Harrow I am struck by its quaint unpretentious frontage, the intricate red brickwork and nostalgic bay windows. You are invited into the restaurant as if you are being welcomed into a home, which in fact you are.

Roger and his wife Sue took on this restaurant as a derelict building some 19 years ago and through loving restoration they have built a brand that is world-renowned both for its food and intelligent wine matching.

I am invited through into Roger’s domain, the kitchen. It’s reminiscent of a Parisian kitchen, simple and immaculate with his head chef and team working in synchronised silence.

“Notice how they are working in silence – there isn’t room for error at this time of day.”

Michelin star chefPrecision is key in this restaurant, any mistakes are disregarded and nothing short of perfection is put on a plate. I watch as a sous-chef makes an error on one of their signature egg & soldiers and I am secretly tempted to rescue it! 

How does your day begin?

 “The day starts early with the arrival of our fresh fish delivery at 7.30am. I like to begin my day with Hilton water and a fresh cup of Ginger tea.”

I blend into the background for their morning briefing, which usually happens at around 11am. Sue and her team review the fish of the day, they discuss the Eel and how important it is to give customers the confidence to try it (it is surprisingly delicious!). 

What did it take to become a Michelin Star Chef? 

“I started my career as a Junior chef at 18, I was working on state banquets for the Queen”

It took three years to become Head Chef where I was responsible for elaborate banquets of 1,000 covers a time.

It was a different industry then, if you wanted to make it you had to put in 120 hours a week. You could do that because there wasn’t the same regulation there is today.”

We leave the team to their preparation and head down to the wine cellar. A narrow, winding staircase leads to an extensive collection of some of the finest wines in the world. Roger holds up a bottle of ’64.

Michelin star chef 02“You can tell when a wine is perfect, its neck is still high, the wax is intact and the cork is wet”

I ask him who would normally order a bottle like that.

“Mainly American’s will come here specifically for these wines” 

How was The Harrow born? 

Leaflets with queen“I was running my own company in London and we were desperate to find somewhere to make our own and raise our family. I met a property developer in a nightclub at 2am and he said he had just the place for us – when we came to look it was a complete shell but oozing with potential.”

“We put every penny we had into starting The Harrow, even using credit cards to buy our first stock of wine” 

What makes a meal Michelin Star? 

“The quality of your ingredients - whether it’s our tomatoes from the Isle of Wight, Lobsters from West Wales or herbs and flowers foraged from the forest. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of food quality.”

“You eat with your eyes: colour, texture and shape are
important on the plate” 

Some key tips for the every-day cook? 

“Buy the best ingredients, they don’t have to be the most expensive but they have to be the best. Don’t leave your shopping sitting in the car for hours. In France, they take a chill bag to the shops. Freshness makes the difference.”

Michelin star chef 03“Something as simple as cabbage can be fantastic cooked with chicken stock and served with fresh seasoning” 

What’s your home comfort food?

“Lamb’s testicles. My mum used to serve them up on a Friday instead of fish. She told me it was some kind of Welsh tradition but no-one else seems to have heard of it.”

 We come to the end of my tour of the restaurant as lunch service is underway. We stop in the herb garden as Roger takes some fresh herbs: Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass and breaks them with his hands to release their intense fragrance. It is passionately clear that Roger lives and breathes his work but combining business with pleasure isn’t easy and I am curious what toll it takes on his life? 

What’s the hardest part of the job?

“It is relentless. In the early years, you can expect to be entrenched in your work every minute of the day but its like a lovely car that you want to look after. If you love what you do it isn’t hard work” 

Well no-one can argue with that…

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