Who/What inspired you to become a chef? And did you ever have another career in mind?
My Father was a fruit and veg salesman in the markets in Southampton and he used to bring a lot of stuff home to cook with, and as my parents were very much working parents, I would often cook family meals for when they got in and I really liked doing it.
At 14 I got myself a job in a Greek restaurant in Southampton at weekends and as a football career was never going to happen, this led to a full-time job and day release college. It was a shock getting to college because I was rubbish compared to all the other cooks and I wasn’t happy with that. So, I got myself an apprenticeship somewhere else where I could make myself the best that I could be and I was on my way.
Who/What initially inspired your style of cooking? And do you think this is still the same as today?
I always wanted to do something different leading up to the opening of L’Enclume. I had always admired the work of Gagnaire and Bras but the single biggest inspiration leading to where I am today would have to be Marc Veyrat. I had the best meals of my life at his restaurants and I was fascinated by his use of alpine herbs, flowers and roots in his cookery which led me to seek out similar ingredients when I arrived in the Lake District.
Tell us more about Aulis London and what diners can expect from their experience?
You can expect the Aulis experience to be a fun, intimate dining occasion where you can observe our latest creations and techniques, hear about the how’s and whys of each dish as it came to fruition and the story of where its ingredients come from. It is a chance to really get up close and personal, with an exclusive look at our new material before it is released at Roganic.
Its food carries on in the same vein as to what our operation in the lakes pursues which is British-influenced, smart, clean and imaginative. The menu is cooked simply with maximum flavour due to the qualities of the best produce available to us. And, the site is perfect – an inconspicuous space down a little side street with blacked out windows and a buzzer to get in, in the heart of Soho! We wanted there to be an air of mystery and a little adventure to find it and to be in a vibrant, exciting area with a real buzz to it and you can’t get much more of a buzzy area than in Soho.
How does the food at Aulis London compare to your two Michelin star restaurant, L’Enclume, in the Lake District? Is it a similar culinary experience?
It is a similar culinary experience but different!
Just as Aulis at L’Enclume is the development space and preview for everything that goes on at L’Enclume, so is Aulis London for Roganic. So, it’s our aim that if you ate at all four restaurants over four consecutive nights, you would experience four completely different meals.
Do you have a signature dish in any of your restaurants?
Obviously, there are many dishes that over the years I have become synonymous with but we change the menu so much and are always looking to do new things so I don’t really dwell on these. I look to my signature as a whole menu that is the constructed with balance, meaning, innovation and maximum flavour.
Where do you source your produce?
In Cartmel. We source most of our produce from our farm and the immediate area, and are very fortunate to have that facility. It’s what guests who come to L’Enclume expect. In London, we will supply a lot of what Aulis and Roganic needs from up there, but also but being in the capital city we look at the best quality ingredients from suppliers across the UK.
What do you think is the way forward for fine dining and cooking in general and why?
For me, I think that a more casual approach to fine food has emerged and is the way forward. Guests still have a huge desire for a quality product but in relaxed surroundings with a bit of funkiness to it.
What have you been up to recently?
Obviously, I’ve been a bit busy lately with lots going on in Cartmel and the opening of two new restaurants in London, but in the middle of December I will be collaborating with Kirk Westaway at restaurant JAAN in Singapore, and in January I will be cooking in Hong Kong – but can’t give any details on that at the moment. We also have an interesting little pop up planned overseas in the Summer, hopefully to be announced soon.
Aulis London will serve as the development kitchen for Roganic which is opening in Marylebone, how will the dining experience differ between the two?
Roganic will be a more orthodox restaurant experience in a style that I mentioned above, relaxed, modern with a certain spirit that was a feature of the old Roganic, although the style of the food, ethos and methods will be very similar.
On a day off from the kitchen, what would be your ideal way to spend it?
Ha, days off, what are they? On a rare day off these days, just having quality time with the family is great. When I do have a bit more time though, I like to cycle, walk or go to the movies.
Find out more about Simon Rogan and his latest restaurant here...