Two-star Michelin chef Marcus Wareing's latest restaurant venture, The Gilbert Scott, opened in the refurbished St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel in May. Once a boxer, he pulls no punches when he talks to Simon Brooke.
CUISINE Two-star Michelin chef Marcus Wareing's latest restaurant venture, The Gilbert Scott, opened in the refurbished St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel in May. Once a boxer, he pulls no punches when he talks to Simon Brooke
The first impression of a dish is always created by its visual aspect. The flavours and the texture of the individual items of food on the plate all come into the creative mix to produce the overall look of the dish.
You also have to think about how it's going to be served. What will be served by the chef and what by waiter? What type of plate will it come on? Chefs are now using individual plates for certain dishes. You might buy 12 plates for a particular dish on the menu, whereas you used to buy 50 standard main plates, 50 dessert plates and so on, and everything went on a similar plate.
Chefs get bored quickly. Also, the internet means that you can see what other chefs around the world are doing almost instantly these days. Blogging and social networks mean that everyone is in everyone's back yard - it's quite scary. You've got to think of new ways of presenting even the most ordinary food.
For instance, at the moment we're working on bread and butter. We're looking at using a whipped butter with coarse-grained sea salt and truffle, and then moulding it into quenelle shapes on a chilled plate or even a piece of slate or wood. The slivers of dark truffle and silver grains of salt will be really striking against the pale yellow butter - and taste great, of course. Customers can have a variety of different types of bread to go with it. So it's a bread-and-butter service, which is a little bit different.
Chefs are increasingly influenced by the overall look of a restaurant. At The Gilbert Scott, the whole restaurant menu was based on the history and look of the St Pancras building. Our food research started from when the hotel was built in the 1870s. We bought old cookery books from that era, including menus by Mrs Beaton.
She has a recipe, for instance, called Soles in coffins. It's lemon sole in a baked potato which they called a coffin. The idea was that you baked the potato, scooped out the flesh and then put sole and shrimps into it. We've taken roughly the same ingredients but deconstructed it and given it a lighter, modern look that is still in keeping with the look of the hotel.
These days, chefs will think of every different angle when they're designing a dish. In the past, Ferran Adrià, the chef at El Bulli, in Spain, was concerned about molecular gastronomy and the science of food when it came to presenting it. Not a lot of chefs could follow his scientific approach but today, if you take somewhere like Noma in Copenhagen, which was named best restaurant in the world last year, it's all about simple, fresh food from the land and the sea. It's just great ingredients served with very little execution and so it's much easier for more chefs to create beautiful looking food with a strong design element.
The look of the menu, the design of the plates, the style of the food - it's all constantly changing now, partly because there have been so many more restaurants opening over the last year or 18 months which means that there is increased competition among chefs.
Every aspect of food is being reconsidered. For example, for the end of the meal, we're creating an exciting new idea for chocolates instead of the traditional plate of petit fours - but I can't tell you what that is yet, you'll have to wait and see.
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