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Likening cooking to flower arranging (letting each flower (flavour) compliment and contrast one another) head-chef at Gordon Ramsay's three-hatted Royal Hospital Road, Clare Smyth is renowned for her dedication to perfection.
Northern Ireland born Clare grew up in the Bushmills area, a stone’s throw from the beautiful Giant Causeway. At the age of 15 she knew she wanted to be a chef and as a youngster she worked in restaurant kitchens at the weekends and school holidays. The first restaurant she worked in was the Hillcrest Country House (now The Smugglers Inn). Clare was introduced to the world of Michelin star kitchens at 15 years old. Her earliest food memories in Northern Ireland was Soda bread and pancakes, ‘everything came with potato’!
By the age of 16 Clare had moved to England to train and develop her cooking skills, taking an apprenticeship for 2 years. At 18 she moved to London to work at Bibendum in South Kensington for a year.A year later, she went to work as sous chef at St Enodoc Hotel in Cornwall, eventually becoming the head chef after a six-month stint working for a party-catering company in Sydney. She spent her holidays doing 'stages' with chefs that she admired, racking up experience with Michael Caines, Heston Blumenthal and the Roux brothers before walking into the kitchen at Gordon Ramsay.
Her memories are of Northern Irish cuisine is of simplicity and freshness, in England butchers prepare their meat for the customers and restaurants however in NI meat would come in on the bone. The convenience of supermarkets was not available 10/15 years ago in NI also. Clare remembers Salmon coming into the restaurant still breathing – everything was fresh and unfussy.
Clare has a clear respect for food and hates it when she’s sees it mistreated! She believes in letting the produce speak for itself, she likens it to flower arranging – letting each flower (flavour) compliment and contrast one another.
Clare describes her cooking style as fussy, she won’t accept okay produce, it has to be perfect! She regularly visits Borough Market at the weekends for inspiration as she finds standing in a kitchen for 18 hours a day hardly inspiring.
Clare’s cooking style is an evolution of classical French cuisine; cooking regional and seasonal produce. She uses a great deal of British produce (salad, veg, fish, potatoes). Clare says she cooks with her heart – she loves beautiful things and gets so much pleasure out of simple fantastic produce. Understanding how to marry flavours together is key in Clare’s eyes, many chefs make the mistake of overcomplicating their dishes.... Read more.