Simon Attridge, executive chef at award-winning Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, tells Caroline Lindsay about his happy childhood food memories, and how Ramsay and Blumenthal helped set him on the path that led to him becoming a top chef…
It’s little wonder that Simon Attridge became a chef – hospitality is almost in his DNA. His father was a hotelier and baby Simon learned to walk by pulling himself up on the beer pumps in the bar.
“Initially, I was going to follow in his footsteps and work front of house in hotel management but I had a job at the local golf club and the chef there started doing fine dining nights once a month, which was when my love for food really began,” Simon reveals.
“From that point I decided I wanted to be a chef and off I went to London where I was lucky enough to work at some great establishments and for a couple of well-known chefs.
“I spent time with both Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal and I achieved a Michelin star when I was 25,” he continues.
“I worked in Shanghai, Abu Dhabi and London for the Shangri-La group, and spent some time cooking in the finance world for Barclays, Goldman Sachs and UBS before finding my way to Gleneagles.”
Growing up in Reigate in Surrey, just outside London, Simon was always cooking at home when he was a child, “making a mess,” as he puts it.
“My favourite memories would be beef stew and dumplings at my grandparents’ house in Guildford, although originally my grandma was from Glasgow. Family Sunday roasts and making apple pie with my dad also stand out as fond food memories.”
Simon has been executive chef at Gleneagles for more than three years.
Fantastic guest experience
“I love being part of the 900-strong team at Gleneagles across the estate, of which 140 fall into the culinary team, all working together to deliver a fantastic guest experience,” he enthuses.
“I love the diversity of each day; it’s always different. As executive chef, I still get to use my love of cooking and balance that with the administrative side.”
The hospitality industry has faced tough times over the past year and Simon reveals that Gleneagles too had to cope with adversity: “Lockdown did affect the job as we were all on furlough for a long period of time – the longest time I have not worked in my adult life,” he says.
“It was a great feeling to re-open the hotel in July. “I don’t believe it has changed the way I cook or think about food but rather I think it has made many people, myself included, reflect on life and what is important.
“We will always face challenges, no more than in the current climate but resilience, flexibility, adaptability, working together and the leadership at Gleneagles will all play a part in overcoming these challenges.”
Simon’s day usually starts around 7.30am with tea and emails.
“I’ll spend time with the breakfast team in the morning before the 9am hotel briefing with all departments. Then it’s generally meetings throughout the day and I make sure I get around all of the kitchens at some point to check in with the teams,” he explains.
“If I am lucky there may be a food tasting. We have a senior chef meeting at 4pm every day, then it’s time for evening service. I check all kitchens are in a good place and will leave to go home any time between 7pm and 11pm.”
Overseeing the different menus at the hotel’s different eateries, he explains: “Each outlet has its own identity. The Strathearn is Scottish fine dining; the Dormy clubhouse offers pizza, tandoor and clubhouse classics; the Birnam brasserie has French and Italian influences. All are based on well sourced seasonal produce with a menu that changes throughout the year.”
Working closely with a lot of local suppliers, the team will source locally wherever they can.
“We also grow a small amount of produce in our kitchen garden which we use where we can,” says Simon. “It may be an edible flower in a salad or a herb in an infusion in the American bar…
“I just love to cook seasonally using local produce with flavour influences from around the world.”
“I don’t really have a signature dish but if I had to name a dish, my recipe for wild venison and chocolate has been hugely popular, year-round on the Strathearn menu since we refurbished the restaurant in April 2019. I love flavours from around the world, especially from my time in the Far East,” he says.
“It’s amazing what you can do using spices and different cooking methods with seasonal and locally sourced food, such as our masala boti rubbed venison served in the Dormy, cooked to perfection in our tandoor oven.”
For Simon, January and February is the time for hearty winter dishes, root vegetables, Tweed Valley Beef, winter truffle mushrooms, Scottish halibut and langoustine from the cold waters, forced rhubarb in both savoury and sweet dishes, and their own Gleneagles blend of Valrhona chocolate and blood orange.
“But for me, my favourite season is definitely spring into summer. Asparagus, morels, forced rhubarb, soft fruits and new season lamb to name but a few…”
And before he heads back to the kitchen he reveals his most hated food.
“Cauliflower cheese or terrible butter in sandwiches,” he grimaces.
“Give me some good quality butter and a loaf of sourdough though and I will eat the lot!”
Gleneagles is closed until January 31. Please visit gleneagles.com for updates.
Simon’s mushrooms and poached egg on sourdough toast
- 200g button mushrooms
- 200g chestnut mushrooms
- 200g girolles mushrooms
- 100g chanterelle mushrooms
- 50g trompettes mushrooms
- 50g shallot, finely diced
- 10g garlic, finely diced
- 4 free range Arlington Whites eggs
- 400g double cream
- 100g unsalted butter
- 5g table salt
- White wine vinegar
- Gleneagles & Co Summer Harvest rapeseed oil
- 4 slices of sourdough bread
- 25g chives
- Sea salt and pepper
- In a heavy based frying pan sweat off the shallot and garlic in butter.
Season with sea salt and pepper and set aside.
- In a separate frying pan, fry off the mushrooms until golden brown in a little rapeseed oil and butter and season to taste.
- Add the shallots and garlic and mix thoroughly. Pour in the cream and leave to cool until you’re ready to serve.
Cut the sourdough into half inch slices and toast under the grill.
- Alternatively spread each slice with a little rapeseed oil and char grill.
Half fill a wide pan with boiling water and add the table salt and a dash of white wine vinegar.
- Bring the water to a light simmer on a medium heat. Crack each egg into a cup before gently pouring into the water in one fluid movement.
- Depending on the pan, a soft poached egg should take 3 to 4 minutes to cook.
To plate, bring the mushroom and cream mixture back to serving temperature.
- As the mix heats up and begins to boil, the cream will reduce to coat the mushrooms.
Keep stirring continuously whilst the mix heats.
- Place the sourdough on the plate, topping it with the mushroom mix and top with a poached egg.
- Sprinkle a little chives, sea salt and freshly ground pepper on top of each egg and serve immediately.
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