INTERVIEW | Marianne Lumb

19 Oct 2014
3 min read
Describing her cuisine as “seasonal, feminine, light and full of flavour”, Chef Lumb tells us about her cuisine at the wonderful London-based restaurant Marianne, as well as her interpretation of Tom Kerridge’s outlook on women in the kitchen…

What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?

They’re very early because my father was a butcher and my mother used to cook quite a lot of stuff for the shop at home. So I used to spend a lot of time gazing at the meat and the game hanging in my father’s shop. There were lots of family meals and country living.

Does that still influence your food today?

Yeah, very much. I like to know where everything comes from and I still love eating, which is very helpful!

Describe your culinary ethos and style in a few words…

Seasonal, feminine, light and full of flavour.

Why feminine?

Because it’s delicate and elegant in aesthetics and taste.

What made you change your career path from architecture to cooking?

I always loved cooking and I wanted to be a chef, but the path wasn’t very clear in kitchens. I was encouraged to do an academic degree and I started architecture and I absolutely hated it. It took me a long time to realise I wanted to be a chef, but when I realised when I was about 21 and everyone told me it was a bit late, I knew it was the right thing. It’s a huge lifetime commitment and I’m delighted I made it. A lot of people don’t ever find their passion and I’m very lucky I found mine. I love cooking, and I love building things and looking at things, and I love beauty and art.

What kind of experience do you aim to give the guests dining at your restaurant?

I want every single customer to not leave a scrap on the plate, be very comfortable, have a wonderful time and be in beautiful surroundings. I want them to experience lovely, unobtrusive service with a detail-filled experience. So far we seem to be doing that.

Does the fact that you have 14 seats in the restaurant affect this?

Absolutely. Starting small allows us to keep an eye on everything. It hasn’t been easy at all, but I’m glad I started this way. We are full 99% of the time.

Is expanding the seating number an option?

We are talking about a second site. We don’t want to change this site, but we certainly are thinking about the brasserie.

Would that be in London?

Yes. The idea will be that we make fresh bread and cheese biscuits in the brasserie and bring it to the restaurant.

Your menu is ever changing. Where do you find your daily inspiration?

It’s based around the seasons and British and European produce. I can’t resist a French fig! It’s definitely based around the best produce we can find.

As a female chef, how do you interpret what Tom Kerridge recently said about women in the professional kitchen?

I think I was first in the queue for ‘fire in the belly’, and I’ve never lacked it personally. I think times have really changed, and I don’t spend much time thinking about gender especially when I’m employing chefs. It’s purely by coincidence that we have all girls in at the moment.

Did you feel like there was a gender stereotype when you started?

It definitely was the case a long time ago. And I vividly remember looking at Gordon Ramsay’s cookbook Passion for Flavour, and flicking through the pages and coming across Angela Hartnett and thinking “oh my goodness, there’s a woman in there”. That was a huge turning point for me.

If you could invite 4 chefs to your restaurant, who would they be?

Helena Rizzo, Auguste Escoffier, Brett Graham and Clare Smithe.

What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?

Launching the restaurant has been hugely memorable. Also, leaving the restaurant to go on holiday and trusting the team implicitly. That was a wonderful moment. We are about to be in the Sunday Times’ Top 100 UK Restaurants, which is great!

Stay tuned on FOUR for some exciting news about Marianne and FOUR tomorrow…