Adam Simmonds

Adam Simmonds

One of the UK's brightest culinary talents, Adam Simmonds has built a remarkable reputation leading some of Britain’s finest kitchens. His light, delicate plates engage all the senses and with the seasons as his guiding influence, top-quality ingredients are showcased front and centre.

Adam Simmonds grew up in a family that prized their meals together. 'We used to all sit around the dinner table on a Sunday,' he says. 'That was the time that we all had to be together. My dad worked away a lot, so when he was back we’d all sit around the dinner table as a family or have barbecues – that type of thing. It was a very loving family.'

He became interested in food as a young teenager, while he was at school. Dyslexia meant that education was a real struggle for Adam Simmonds, but in cooking he found something practical, something he could do with his hands. 'I used to get very frustrated, so I found something that I could do where I didn’t have to sit behind a desk and be bored. I just pursued it from there really, but I had to work very hard at it still.'

He left school at sixteen, around the time he got first job, working as a pot washer at the Globe Inn, in Leighton Buzzard. Catering college came next, before he headed to London for an apprentice position at Le Gavroche. Roles at The Ritz, Burts, then the Halkin followed.

At the Halkin, he worked under head chef Stefano Cavallini, working his way up to chef de partie. He says of his time in this kitchen: 'I learnt a lot. I was only a young man then, so it was a brilliant time as well. You learn stuff from wherever you work, but that was one of the most memorable ones.' As he worked his way up the kitchen hierarchy, he continued his training at The Lanesborough, Marco Pierre White’s Les Saveurs and L’Escargot, before leaving London for Heathcotes at Longridge, where he was sous chef.

His next position came at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, which was his first two-Michelin starred kitchen, but nerves almost stopped him taking up the role. He says of Gary Jones: 'He gave me a second chance. I turned up and then drove away from the gate because it was such a daunting place. He gave me a second opportunity and I took that opportunity. I think sometimes in life people deserve a second opportunity and I think I am fair. I don’t do that with everybody, because you don’t always see something in them, but I think if you do then they deserve the opportunity. If they don’t take that, then that is down to them, but I think it is important that we do that to encourage people, because people do make mistakes. If we can facilitate them in their careers, it’s a benefit for the industry.'

This kitchen was another significant learning experience for Adam Simmonds, and he credits Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones with teaching him about quality, freshness, and seasonality. He says of this time: 'They also taught me about flavours, about technique. I absorbed a lot – it was a brilliant place to work.'

He left after three years at Le Manoir, where he was now sous chef, for his first head chef role at The Greenway in Cheltenham. In less than a year he had achieved a Good Food Guide rating of 7/10 and three AA rosettes. Next he joined the small, family-run Ynyshir Hall in Wales, achieving his first Michelin star in 2006, as well as 8/10 in the Good Food Guide and four AA rosettes.

In 2007 he made what he describes as 'the biggest decision of my life' – he walked away from what he had built in Wales, and started afresh at Danesfield House near Marlow. Here he was in charge of driving the restaurant forward – sourcing new suppliers, working with new people. He says this opportunity offered 'more competition, more responsibility and more of a challenge! The pressure to succeed commercially was turned up several notches because there were several Michelin-starred restaurants in the immediate location – most of which were run by celebrity chefs with regular television exposure. This would be very different to Ynyshir Hall.'

The gamble paid off, and over the next seven years Adam Simmonds went on to establish Danesfield House (later renamed Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House) as one of the finest restaurants in the country. The second Michelin star of his career was awarded in 2010, to which he added another four AA rosettes. He also earned a further 8/10 rating in the Good Food Guide and his restaurant was placed 13th in the country in the publication’s 2013 list. 'I learnt that if the highest standards were achieved through the food we cooked and the service which was provided, then the marketing took care of itself.'

The seasons are at the heart of Adam Simmonds’ food – a focus influenced by his time at Le Manoir. He says: 'For the food to be the best, you have to go seasonal. When produce comes in, it’s lovely to work with. There’s always a whole host of new things.' Particularly acclaimed at Danesfield House was his slow-cooked duck egg with duck confit, asparagus and cobnuts, his crab salad, mackerel tartare, cucumber and avocado and the stunning dessert of lemon parfait, fennel pollen ice cream, fennel granita, and olive oil jelly.

In 2014 he left Danesfield House to work on opening his own restaurant – a dream since he was young. 'I was sorry to leave,' he says, 'but it was a natural progression. I had achieved what I could achieve there. Now there’s only one challenge left, to create my own restaurant. To do this it takes time to focus on what needs to be achieved, this was something I couldn’t do whilst running the restaurants.

Over the years, Adam's style has evolved considerably. 'Style changes as you mature,' he explains. 'You become a more rounded chef. Before it was about how many things I could get on a plate and now it is about stripping it back and allowing the products to talk. It’s more about the ingredients than trying to be clever. That is how I’ve changed.'

Adam kept his hand in with a variety of consulting and temporary chef positions, whilst hunting for the perfect site. In April 2017, he found it – Adam's dream was realised when he opened The Test Kitchen in Soho – a pop-up, serving innovative small plates with a regularly changing menu. Diners could talk to the chefs and give feedback throughout the meal, working with the team to help dishes evolve over time.

The Test Kitchen was only a pop-up, and it closed at the end of 2017. Since then he has worked as the head chef at Adam Handling Chelsea in the Belmond Cadogan Hotel and the executive chef of The Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge. Today, he cooks at The Queen's Head in Dorking, a beautiful pub in Surrey.