Adam Smith

Adam Smith

During his time working under John Williams at The Ritz for almost ten years, Adam Smith fell in love with the complexities of classical cookery. Now a Roux Scholar and executive chef at the stunning Michelin-starred Coworth Park, he puts his own spin on classic combinations that showcase the pinnacle of flavour, technique and plating.

Chefs can often feel a pressure to be constantly doing something different and innovative with their food, whether that be introducing daring flavour combinations, using lesser-known ingredients or simply presenting their dishes in abstract new ways. But food doesn’t always need to be about reinventing the wheel – and chefs like Adam Smith are the perfect example of this. Having always had a passion for classical French cookery, since taking over the kitchen at the idyllic Coworth Park in 2016 he’s made it his mission to show that elevated takes on the classics are exceptional in their own right. The result is dishes of pure brilliance which showcase a complete understanding and mastery of the skills and techniques that make up the foundations of almost all European cookery.

As a child growing up near Birmingham, Adam was initially set on becoming either a lawyer or a policeman until he got a holiday job working at a new local restaurant when he was thirteen. ‘I just wanted some extra money during the summer and they were looking for kitchen porters,’ Adam explains. ‘I got the job and just fell in love with it. It wasn’t actually initially about the food for me, it was the camaraderie of the kitchen. I used to play a lot of rugby so I really enjoyed that team atmosphere.’ Adam was soon trusted with prepping and dressing dishes at the restaurant and by the time he started a GCSE in home economics, he started to realise he had a natural flair for cookery. ‘Everyone else would be making lasagne and I’d be there doing a piece of beef with a rosti and peppercorn sauce!’

After finishing his studies, Adam’s mind was made up and he decided to go to catering college in Birmingham. Although he only stayed for a year, it was a connection he made there that led to a career-defining move. ‘I’d decided that I was going to leave to go and work full-time,’ says Adam. ‘One of the lecturers knew John Williams, who was moving from Claridge’s to The Ritz. He sent me down for a trial, the chef offered me a job and I started a few weeks later.’

Aged just sixteen, Adam wasn’t expecting to stay at The Ritz for more than a year – but he quickly became engrossed by the buzz of the kitchen. ‘I thought I’d be there for a bit and then I’d go back to the Midlands,’ he laughs. ‘But in the end, I don’t think I even went back to see my family for almost two years. Everything I thought I already knew I had to learn again, and I loved that challenge. At that point I thought mayonnaise still came out of a jar!’ Going on to spend close to ten years working alongside John Williams, Adam gradually worked his way up the ranks to executive sous chef at the prestigious London hotel, which also gave him the opportunity to compete in competitions including WorldSkills and the legendary Roux Scholarship, which he went on to win in 2012.

For Adam, nothing was more important about his time at The Ritz than what it taught him about classical cookery. ‘That’s where I fell in love with gastronomy and the craftsmanship side of things,’ he explains. ‘It opened my eyes to the fact that you can go to a restaurant that’s been open for 100 years but is still serving food that’s relevant today, and I loved that.’ A three-month stage at Paris’ legendary three-star Le Meurice in 2012 gave Adam the opportunity to flex his classical ability at the highest level and when he returned to the UK, he decided it was time to move on from The Ritz to try something new.

‘I was twenty-four and I was number two in a brigade of seventy chefs at The Ritz,’ says Adam. ‘So I wanted to move somewhere smaller where I could actually touch everything again.’ A head chef position at The Devonshire Arms Hotel’s Burlington Restaurant in north Yorkshire provided Adam with the opportunity to do just that, leading a team of just eight chefs. However, he quickly realised that he preferred being able oversee the entire food offering of a hotel, rather than just one part of it, so that he could ensure the philosophy and approach of the cookery was consistent across the board. As a result, within just four months of joining, Adam was made executive chef of the entire hotel, and went to on achieve four AA rosettes at The Burlington.

Given his love of working in hotels, it’s no surprise that when Adam was given the opportunity to become executive chef at Coworth Park in 2016, he jumped at the chance. ‘Something that really appealed to me was that they weren’t just chasing Michelin stars,’ he explains. ‘I think the more you try to cook for something, the less chance you’ve got at getting it. The reality is if you step back, cook freely and make sure that your guests are happy, everything else will follow.’ Going in with this attitude proved fruitful, and within just a year of taking over Adam was awarded a Michelin star.

At Coworth Park, Adam has stuck to his guns and continues to cook his own take on the classical style of food that he first fell in love with at The Ritz. ‘The best chefs create their own style in what they do,’ he says. ‘I’m very proud to say that everything we do is classical and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There are no flavour combinations here that people are going to sit down and say ‘Wow, I’ve never had that before!’ but hopefully they’ll think ‘I’ve never had it like that before’.’

It’s no easy task making classical food new and exciting in the modern day, but Adam Smith has shown that with enough thought, skill, ambition and confidence, it can still compete with – and surpass – everything else around it.