StyleNest took 5 minutes to catch up with Adam Smith, executive chef at the Dorchester Collection’s Coworth Park, to find out what inspires his cooking, how to create great food at home, and where to find the best meal in London.
Can you tell us a bit more about how you came to be where you are today, and what inspired you to follow a career in gastronomy?
I fell in love with the kitchen aged 13 when I took a part time job washing up in a local restaurant. After that I decided to go to catering college, I managed just a year before I wanted to go out into industry.
This is when I started at The Ritz London, where I spent the next 10 years and gave me my core training. In 2012, I won the Roux Scholarship and took my prize at Le Meurice, Paris, under chef Yannick Alléno.
Upon returning from this, I decided that it was time to step out on my own and took my first head chef role at The Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire. I learnt a lot about myself, as well as managing a kitchen and business from my time there. In 2016, it was time to move on and then I took the opportunity at Coworth Park.
What is your earliest memory of food, and do you have any dishes from childhood that you still love to eat now?
Growing up, Sunday was a big day. The whole family would gather at my grandparent’s and Sunday Roast was the meal of the week. And it is still my favourite.
You’ve had an illustrious career, receiving a Michelin star just one year after joining Coworth Park, winning the title of Observer Food Monthly Young Chef of the Year in 2012, and described as ‘one to watch’ by chef Michel Roux Senior. Any particular career highlights that you can tell us about or any moments that have stood out for you?
Receiving a Michelin star was a massive moment for me. As a cook, it had always been an ambition of mine and to finally achieve it was amazing for myself and all the team at Coworth Park! It took a couple of months for it to sink in.
At Coworth Park the menu offers a modern interpretation of classic British flavour combinations. Can you tell us a little bit more about the creative process behind your menus and what inspires your cuisine?
The main driver for inspiration, for me, is ingredients. As a cook we spend our time searching for the best ingredients we can get our hands on and when you find them it is then a case of allowing them to do the work, making sure you are doing them justice. I love classic cooking but with evolution, it is imperative that our food be relevant and exciting too our guests.
With all of your knowledge and experience, can you share any secrets with our readers for cooking at home? Maybe tips on something most of us get wrong, or something that you have learnt working in the industry which is also great advice for home cooks?
Cooking at home is about great ingredients cooked simply, I never try to over complicate it. I also try to use as little pots and pans as I can, because I have nobody to clean up after me.
For entertaining guests at home, how can our readers elevate a meal from every day to something special?
I would say buy the best ingredients you can and be well organised so that time pressure doesn’t get the better of you. And don’t be scared to try something new.
Would would be your perfect meal?
Roast Chicken with stuffing and all the trimmings.
What is a typical day for you, if there is one!
A typical day for me starts with checking all the deliveries have arrived and then its our team meeting where we discuss the business for the day, what we have booked, dietaries and jobs to be done.
After that we start the day’s preparations. In the afternoon we place all of our orders and then clean down and set up for service. That’s when the team goes to eat and then my favorite part of the day: service!
We then clean down and write our prep list for the following day. As you implied this can obviously all change and regularly does, when running such a big operation and managing a team of 45 chefs you never really know what challenges the day will throw at you.
How would you spend your perfect day off?
With my beautiful girlfriend and two young children.
Coworth Park is set in a beautiful part of the English countryside and yet is just over an hour outside of London. Any favourite London haunts if you make it over for a day trip?
I regularly go into London to visit restaurants and the best thing about the city is that there are so many places with different types of cuisine. This makes it very hard to pick a favourite, but I recently went back to Gymkhana, the food and atmosphere make for a wonderful dining experience. I would have to say my all-time favourite is The Ledbury, a great in the London restaurant scene, consistently cooking some of the best food you can find.
What are your other favourite travel destinations and what would you recommend our readers do there?
I was lucky enough to visit San Francisco and I loved it! A lot of great restaurants and the food scene is amazing. Also not too far from Napa Valley, which is fantastic to visit for the spectacular vineyards.
Whilst in San Francisco I had what I would describe as the best meal of my life, it was at Benu, every course was simply perfect. The technicality of each dish was inspiring; the temperature, texture and taste were all perfectly balanced and judged.
And finally, what is your life motto?
You only get one go!