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October 4, 2013

The Samling’s Ian Swainson on winning a Michelin star

By Spear's

Once we were happy with the food we needed to ensure that we became a dining destination, accessible to the local community and of course a wider

On arriving at The Samling on a quiet, sunny day last year I prepared to meet my kitchen brigade. The team consisted of two sous chefs, Tom and Ryan, a pastry chef called Kirsty and a chef called Dane that I worked with formally at Seaham Hall (my first head chef position). The first thing I did was to sit down and talk about how the kitchen had been running, how it was going to run and of course most importantly how we were going to move the kitchen forward. 

The most important thing was to get the food up to standard; we worked tirelessly on getting the menu to where we wanted it to be.  Once we were happy with the food we needed to ensure that we became a dining destination, accessible to the local community and of course a wider audience.

We do seem to have achieved that to date: the hotel restaurant seems to be full almost every evening (often with a long waiting list) and lunchtime business is just as busy. I always feel that the busyness of a restaurant is a good barometer of how you are doing as a kitchen brigade.

Our goal was one Michelin star and three rosettes, an accolade that I had been lucky enough to be a part of in other kitchens and on two separate occasions –  at L’Ortolan with Alan Murchison and La Becasse under long time mentor Will Holland.

I can honestly say that this last year has been the most challenging but enjoyable of my life. I only wanted the best staff I could for the kitchen, I am meticulous when recruiting a new member of the team. This recruitment strategy of only employing the best was made more difficult because we were weren’t offering chefs the chance to join a readymade Michelin star hotel, they were joining to be part of a culinary journey. This often prolonged the recruitment of certain roles.

There have been two chefs that have in particular made the journey to this point possible – Tom Sheppard and Lewis Oliver, who worked tirelessly for me to allow my vision and ambitions of creating great food that we can call ours to really come to reality. I will never forget the hard work that they put in to help us get to this point.

The food we serve has to be presented in such a way (and in some cases with a certain theatre) that gives the guest a more fulfilling experience, so the restaurant staff were even more important in helping us achieve this accolade.

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I have had fantastic support from the hotel’s owners who enabled us to do what we do. We have even just built a development kitchen and hired a development chef to take the menu even further.

Visit the Samling’s website

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