Meet Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan
Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan has won multiple awards for his three-course ‘at home’ meal service that celebrates the seasons with the very best ingredients, most of them grown on his Lake District farm, Our Farm. Now you can order our seasonal farm flowers to complement these meals. The ‘at home’ menus are available only in limited numbers and tend to sell out fast, so we recommend joining early or signing up to the Simon Rogan at Home newsletter.
Through this partnership we have enjoyed getting to know the team at Simon Rogan and found so many shared values and inspirations. Here we find out about how it all started, discover more about the farm and how seasonality and scent inspire Simon Rogan and his team.
Tell us a little bit about the story of where you are now and how you got here?
Cartmel is where it all started and is the home of my first restaurant, L’Enclume, which I opened nearly 20 years ago. We now own and operate our neighbourhood restaurant Rogan & Co, Our Farm, Aulis Cartmel - our development kitchen and chef's table - Our Shop, Simon Rogan at Home and 16 bespoke bedrooms and suites from Cartmel, which is nestled in the heart of Cumbria and surrounded by rolling green fields.
A little further away from us in Bowness-on-Windermere, in October 2019 we opened Henrock, an informal restaurant set within Linthwaite House, a contemporary country-house hotel with views of Lake Windermere.
Down in the south, we opened a London outpost of Aulis as a stand-alone dining destination. The restaurant seats eight people and provides an intimate dining experience for our guests in central Soho.
Our first international restaurant, Aulis opened in January 2019, followed by Roganic in February 2019. We were so happy when Roganic Hong Kong was awarded a Michelin star in December 2019, within a year of opening.
We got to this point through a lot of hard work and determination. I know everyone says that, but it’s true. I would also say having a clear vision in mind, I knew what I wanted, and that meant that there was always a path to follow. I wanted to open my own restaurant and for it to be supplied with the best local and seasonal produce available. This quickly developed into me creating my own farm, Our Farm, in the Cartmel Valley. Ultimately, none of it would have been possible without my team. Where we are now is a direct result of their passion and drive.
How did Simon Rogan At Home begin and what's your vision for the 'at home' meals for the future?
Simon Rogan At Home was built out of necessity and a desire to give back to our local community.
When restaurants were forced to close in the first lockdown, we had a whole farm’s worth of produce going to waste. We were also keenly aware of the community of vulnerable people in and around Cartmel who would be isolated and alone, perhaps not able to get out and do their shopping. So, at first, we made farm boxes full of fruit and veg from Our Farm and easy take-home meals for the vulnerable in the surrounding area. We delivered these with the help of the vicar in Cartmel, Nick Devenish. In no time at all, we had expanded to include meals for NHS staff at Furness General Hospital. Eventually, we decided to offer our meals on a nationwide basis: there had been a lot of demand, and we felt like it was the right move. The rest is history!
Our ‘At Home’ meals are here to stay. We’ve recently moved into a new unit so that we can have a space dedicated to production and packing. We are only at the beginning of this journey and have many exciting ideas and plans in the pipeline, so watch this space!
Our mission is to grow flowers as nature intended and a vital aspect of that for us is scent, as many commercial flowers have been bred to have their scent gene removed. How does scent play a role in the ingredients you grow and the food you create?
Scent is critical. It’s an integral part of experiencing a meal. Whenever we create a dish we think carefully about the taste, of course, but also how it looks on the plate and how it will smell when it reaches the diner. All those senses have to come together to make the perfect dish.
On Our Farm, we are always experimenting with new species of plants. Once they are ready for harvest, we send them over to Aulis, our development kitchen next to L’Enclume. At Aulis, we try out the different varieties, seeing how they interact with the other elements of the dish and which gives us the best flavour combination.
On our flower farm it can sometimes be feast or famine, especially with our English garden roses. Do you find the same thing at your Cartmel farm and how have the chefs had to adapt to make it work?
I think that is part and parcel of working on a farm in the UK, especially in the Lake District, where the weather is so changeable and there are often abrupt changes of season. The beds on Our Farm overflow with produce in summer, but they really wind down in the winter. We have a few crops here and there, like cabbages and squashes, but we get through this period by pickling and preserving the summer glut.
How do your chefs and farm work together to choose what is grown?
Our Farm was designed by chefs for chefs, so our team chooses everything that is grown. We are lucky enough to have a fantastic Farm Manager, John Rowland, who previously worked on a farm that supplied a luxury hotel restaurant, so he has a fundamental understanding of what it is we are looking for.
How does the landscape, climate and soil of the Lakes influence what you grow and cook?
The climate has a significant influence on how we grow herbs, vegetables and fruits on Our Farm. There are many plants that suit the climate, but we have to use polytunnels to grow those that need extra warmth.
We’re pretty adventurous, we will try most things out, and if it doesn’t work we move on to something else. Our chefs are adaptable and inventive, so they are happy to try different ingredients as an alternative.
What seasonal ingredients are you most looking forward to bringing to the kitchen this summer?
I've enjoyed using elderflowers. To me, they signify the start of summer. We preserve the flowers so that we can use them once their short season has ended.
It’s hard to beat peas, eaten straight out of the pod when they have just been picked, but our team at Aulis London are currently serving Our Farm peas with a pickled quail egg, smoked cod’s roe and mint, and that, in my opinion, is even better.
What is your favourite dish from July’s At Home Menu?
I love them all, but if I had to pick, I would have to choose the starter of confit Jersey Royal potatoes, smoked eel, whipped cod’s roe and parsley. I think it’s the perfect start to a meal, not too heavy but with a satisfying hit of salt from the cod’s roe and the smoky taste of the eel.
Do you still make time to cook at home?
I do, but my wife Penny normally takes the reins in the kitchen at home when I’ve been at L’Enclume or Rogan & Co for service. She’s a great cook, so I’m happy to hand over the responsibility. We’ve recently moved house, so it’s been fun cooking in a new kitchen together. There’s also a local Chinese restaurant which offers a great takeaway, so we sometimes indulge.
What has inspired you recently?
I’m always inspired by the changing landscape of the Lake District. I’ll go for a cycle ride or a walk to give myself some space to think and notice the turning of the seasons. I’m always amazed by how quickly these things happen.
I would also have to say my team drive me forward. There is so much that we have yet to achieve together and that pushes me on each day.
What are you passionate about right now?
I am passionate about the incredible food scene that is evolving in the Lake District. There are so many amazing restaurants, some old and some new, that have made the Lakes a culinary destination in its own right. I feel proud to have been a part of that, and I want to make sure it stays on the map.