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Back To Nature

21.03.22

Julia Millen spoke to Simon Rogan, founder of Simon Rogan At Home, about his grass roots approach to creating seasonal and sustainable restaurant quality dishes delivered straight to your door

Where do you source inspiration for new recipes?

The process is incredibly seasonal. Our restaurant menus are always inspired by the produce that’s readily available at any given time and our farm in Cumbria is at the centre of everything we do. Even after 20 years, we’re still finding new ways of bringing ingredients to life. It all starts with a seed. We see something grow and it arrives in our development kitchens, where our senior chefs work on our new dishes.

How do you go about sourcing fresh, local and sustainable products?

Being based in Cumbria, there’s nowhere better for fresh produce. Also sustainability comes easily to us here, because we’ve so much around. Any suppliers that we work with, we speak to in depth and find out how we can work together better to make the product as sustainable as possible. For instance – when we went to Hong Kong, we spent a great deal of time, travelling around and meeting organic farmers and working out how to grow the produce that we needed; something you wouldn’t expect from the region, which is typically an import/export market. However, we were determined to put in the extra effort. You will always find what you need if you look for it hard enough.

How did At Home come about?

When the lockdown was announced in spring 2020, we thought, what are we going to do? We had ingredients on our farm which were going to go to waste and a great deal of stock in the freezers, so, we started cooking. Originally the idea was to start selling £5 meals in the local area and with the profits from that, provide free meals for the elderly and vulnerable. We wanted to give back to the community. That idea then developed into providing nourishing meals to hospitals. Demand was so great, that we decided to expand the concept into a fully-fledged at home menu, more in keeping with what we serve in our restaurants. To be honest, you could say it was born out of necessity. If you’d have asked me a couple of years ago if we would develop the business in this direction, I would have laughed, but it’s now developed into an integral part of our business. We’ve also teamed up with the supermarket chain Booths, to provide meals to their customers via Amazon, so we’re primed to capitalise on that market, too.

How do you devise the menus for the recipe boxes?

We want to input the same level of care and passion to the recipe boxes that you’d find in our restaurants. Many of them use the same recipes – we just adapt them. We do all the hard work, and all the client has to do is pop the dish into the oven. Its restaurant quality food with minimum effort.

How would you describe the Simon Rogan Front of House Academy?

Our group has grown considerably over the last few years and we have an impressive front of house team, delivering amazing results across all of our venues. The training course we’ve devised, enables individuals to work to an incredibly high standard, with expert staff who are top of their game in thir respective fields including wine and cheese tasting and bar tending. Our restaurants in Cumbria are connected to their surroundings. We want local people to carry that message through and there’s no one more passionate than someone delivering produce from their own county. With the current skills shortage in the UK, we need to look to the next generation of front of house talent closer to home. Once we’ve developed their skills and talents, by spending considerable time, effort and money on their training and career progression, it’s our hope that they will go on to work in one of our three restaurants in Cumbria, perhaps even in London or Hong Kong. Most senior members of staff in our restaurants have literally worked their way up through the ranks. It’s the way we operate – promotion from within. Once they’ve joined us, we hope they stay with us for a long time.

Tell us about your recent collaboration with Sykes Holiday Cottages

This collaboration came about through discussions on how to extend the At Home concept to a new market. We’ve recently moved to a purpose built unit and we’re looking to provide dining experiences to the many holiday makers visiting the area. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a huge influx of visitors, so we’re working together to provide guests with exclusive opportunities to enjoy a little luxury delivered directly to their holiday cottage door. This offering has been very popular so far, and we’ve seen demand grow considerably over the last few months.

What’s next for you?

We’re all incredibly excited that 2022 will be 20 years since we started out, but the most amazing aspect for me, is the team we have. It’s very exciting to be launching in Hong Kong and with our permanent site for Simon Rogan At Home, we hope to have more products in the pipeline. I also want to continue to nurture our extremely talented team; to get behind them and to keep pushing the restaurant forward to bigger and better things for the next 20 years.

www.homebysimonrogan.co.uk

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