By way of chef Andy McGeorge in the Lake District, celebrated Michelin starred chef Gordon Ramsey in London and then to Dubai, we are delighted to welcome the talents of Chef Scott Price with his debut column for Food and Travel.
I started washing dishes in a restaurant kitchen when I was eleven and right from the beginning I was comfortable in that environment. It was busy and everyone took the job seriously, but they had fun at the same time. I feel very lucky that from a young age I knew where I wanted to be. The kitchen is the sort of place where if you put your head down and work hard, you’ll do well. It’s very democratic – it doesn’t matter what your background is, where you’re from or what you’ve done before. You get out of it what you put in.
I went to catering college in Carlisle where we learnt all the classic rouxs, sauces and techniques. Today with the popularity of molecular gastronomy and the modern equipment that’s available those basic skills might be considered old fashioned. A lot of young chefs are only familiar with cooking meat in a temperature controlled water bath and it’s not normal for them sear it in a pan from start to finish. For me, that’s a basic requirement; you should simply know when an ingredient is cooked properly through trial, error and experience, without having to rely on a thermometer or timer. Nick (Alvis, Scott’s business partner and fellow chef patron at Folly) and I both believe that it’s very important for all our chefs to have a good grasp of the fundamentals. We spend a lot of time working with them to ensure that they’re confident in their ability and have a real understanding of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
When I was nineteen I started working in the Lake District at a country house hotel called The Rampsbeck. The restaurant had three AA rosettes at the time, the food was touching Michelin-star standards and it really opened my eyes to not just what high-end cooking was, but also the importance of doing things properly. When you’re young, it’s crucial to work for a head chef who wants you to grow and learn and will nurture your ability, with an eye to helping you succeed in the future and that’s exactly what I found at The Rampsbeck with Andy McGeorge. One of the main reasons I ended up working for Gordon Ramsay in London was because of the support and encouragement that Andy gave me.
The fantastic thing about cooking somewhere like the Lakes is the fresh produce. So much of what we used was local and seasonal: we had a hotel gardener who grew the fruit and vegetables, the owner would go out and shoot rabbits, the fish came from the nearby coast. To this day I can still remember the taste and smell of the English strawberries and raspberries when they arrived at the height of their season.
Seasonal food and cooking is something I miss working in the UAE – because of the weather you really do have to adapt the way you write menus. Nick and I have been here since 2010, when we moved to Dubai to run Verre by Gordon Ramsay at the Hilton Dubai Creek. Over the years we’ve developed good relationships with suppliers who really care about what they’re selling and consistently deliver great produce, whether that’s fish from the UK or lamb from Australia. Of course we try and support local producers and businesses where possible and get very excited about new additions to the market – all our herbs and microherbs are grown especially for us from seed in Fujairah, for example – but you have to be realistic too. We know which ingredients we can pretty much guarantee in terms of quality and consistency, but we’ll take a chance on a few items as well. We want to keep things fresh for the customers and also for ourselves.
The food at Folly is built around a way of cooking that Nick and I have been working on since 2011 when we launched Table 9 by Nick and Scott (in the space previously occupied by Verre). We wanted to make a statement – to ourselves as much as anyone else – and do things differently. That meant deliberately moving away from the classic Gordon Ramsay-style menu and developing our own voice, which has ultimately evolved into the style of cooking you see at Folly today.
Our dishes are built around showcasing a main ingredient and then using two or three flavours that enhance and really bring out the best in that central ingredient. If you look at our crab dish for example, the fresh English crab is obviously the hero but the basil compliments it perfectly. We stick with this approach across the board – including the cocktail menus – so that the whole Folly experience is a holistic one. From the food and drinks to the restaurant décor, as well as the cutlery, crockery, lighting and music, everything is chosen by Nick, Viktorija and myself and has our own personal stamp on it.