Despite success back home in the United Kingdom, Simon Rogan has a soft spot for Asian food. If you do get a chance to dine at one of his restaurants, the influences are delectably evident. But, ask him to describe his culinary style, and the most obvious reference would be his two-Michelin star riverside restaurant, L’Enclume, with rooms and a farm, which he opened in the idyllic village of Cartmel in 2002, serving a cuisine that’s based on ingredients from the restaurant’s local surroundings.
“That’s why it’s so successful—it’s an amazing ethos and people really appreciate that,” Rogan affirms. The rules are a bit more relaxed with his London restaurants—Aulis and Roganic—which feature food from all over the UK and some internationally sourced ingredients as well, reflecting the cosmopolitan city.
Like a handful of top chefs—Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ Dan Barber, Noma’s René Redzepi and Australia’s Dan Hunter of Brae—who are committed to quality ingredients and ethical sourcing, what inspires the chef and what moves him to do what he does?
Do you think this has become a dream for more chefs—to be able to work so closely with what they can grow?
Simon Rogan (SR) Yeah. Obviously, we are very lucky to have the surroundings and the facilities—you can’t have that in the middle of London or Singapore. But I think things are changing. For example, there’s a guy whom we are going to start using more of at Roganic—he takes away our food waste in the centre of London, he goes somewhere and compost it all for us. And then he is going to grow on allotments around London beetroots, turnip and carrots.
Does this translate to diners being more discerning?
SR I think so. I try to practise what I preach. I try to eat less meat. I try to eat more organic vegetables. Because it’s not just about the health (benefits) and quality of these ingredients, it’s also about what is happening to our planet; the perils of animal agriculture... and questioning why we are giving so much food to cows when we could be giving it to starving people. Eating vegetables isn’t enough. We at L’Enclume are working towards (achieving) zero food waste, and sustainable practices is at the top of our list.
What peeves you most about today’s dining scene?
SR Well, as someone who is very ingredient-led, it really narks me when people settle for ingredients that don’t taste of anything... there is a good carrot and there is a bad carrot, but people don’t know the difference. And you’d be pretty amazed where this is evident; and that includes Michelin- starred restaurants that use ingredients out of season.
What continues to inspire you?
SR We went into growing our own vegetables because we were frustrated with the supply. But now we are equally frustrated with the proteins we use. So, by end of this year, we will have every animal we use on our farm as well. And, obviously, we use the whole animal.
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