Simon Rogan

Simon Rogan

Simon Rogan

Simon Rogan has achieved incredible success during his years at the top of British cuisine, gaining three Michelin stars at his flagship Cumbrian restaurant, L’Enclume, where he farms and forages all manner of unusual edibles. His highly complex, beautifully crafted dishes change as regularly as the natural world and his restaurant is one of the best in Britain.

Simon Rogan’s father worked at a wholesale fruit and vegetable market, coming home every evening with a box of the day’s the best produce. A fussy eater at the time, Simon Rogan was suspicious of the unfamiliar exotics he brought back, such as star and kiwi fruits, but credits this early exposure with sparking his life-long interest in ingredients and seasonal produce.

Already a keen home cook, aged fourteen he took a weekend job in a Greek restaurant in his hometown of Southampton, but at that point the financial freedom it afforded was the motivator. Football was more on his mind, with trials for Chelsea and a training contract with Fulham in the offing; but realising this was a pipe dream, he focused on catering college instead, which he attended on day release while he continued to work. He told GQ of his time there: ‘I was surrounded by aspiring chefs who were far more experienced than me and were working in the great country-house hotels of the New Forest … I couldn’t stand for that! So that fired up my competitive spirit and I vowed to become the best chef I could.’

In an effort to build on the classical skills he had begun to develop at college, Simon started work as an apprentice at Rhinefield House Hotel in Hampshire, aged seventeen, under a chef who had worked at The Savoy. He told The Guardian: ‘He gave me a great classical grounding. Now I was earning no money at all, but that no longer mattered: I was head over heels in love with it. I wanted to get to the top.’ It was at this luxury hotel that a love of foraging was born and Simon would spend his time off exploring the surrounding forests, fields and hedgerows for wild mushrooms and herbs.

In 1988 he took a position as a pastry chef at Geddes Restaurant in Southampton, under chef Jean-Christophe Novelli. Following him around the country for the next eight years, this was a hugely formative time for Simon and he says Jean-Christophe opened his eyes to the possibilities for travel and professional development that dedicated cheffing could offer. This period included stints working at The Maltster’s Arms in Devon (then owned by Keith Floyd), Gordleton Mill in the New Forest, Hampshire, and Nansidwell House Hotel in Falmouth, as well as stage placements under Marco Pierre White and John Burton-Race. In the 1990s he worked for two years at the three-star Lucas Carton in Paris, under Alain Senderens – an experience he describes as ‘incredible’, followed by his first head chef role at Adlington Place in Croydon.

In 2002, Simon and his partner Penny opened their own restaurant – L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria. Building on the enthusiasm for ingredients he learnt from his father and his early career experiences of sourcing wild food, Simon’s dishes showcase the tastes, textures and fragrances of the surrounding natural world. Influenced by French chef Marc Veyrat, whose avant-garde, natural cuisine and creative use of Alpine herbs and flowers has long been admired by Simon, his plates centre on ingredients of the highest possible quality, both farmed and foraged. Awarding Simon a perfect 10/10, the 2015 Good Food Guide described his constantly changing, twenty-one-course tasting extravaganza as ‘miracles of nature’. His first Michelin star was awarded in 2005, with the second arriving in 2013 and finally a third in 2022. He also currently holds the maximum five AA rosettes.

Dedicated to being the very best of British, Simon’s flagship restaurant serves food that is exclusively sourced from the north west of England, highlighting ‘our philosophy of trying to use everything around us, from food and staff to furniture'. Such dishes could include venison leg cooked in hay with roast celeriac and braised red cabbage, or hake fillet with golden beet and radish salad.

At the heart of this local philosophy is Simon’s farm (called 'Our Farm'), which supplies over ninety percent of the kitchen’s produce, located near the restaurant in Cumbria’s beautiful Cartmel Valley. Here he grows a fascinating range of unusual and exciting ingredients – all produced organically, to his exacting specifications – such as Japanese wineberries, elkhorn fern and buckshorn plantain. With harvest to plate often taking place in less than an hour, the quality and freshness is stunning. Wild edibles are still an important area of supply, however, and herbs and flowers such as lovage, calamint and elderflower are sourced by his impressive foraging operation. Our chefs have learnt to understand exactly what can be achieved by using produce that has been grown, nurtured and foraged in the natural environment that surrounds many of our restaurants.’ His Great British Menu-winning dessert of Poached pears, atsina cress snow, sweet cheese ice cream and rosehip syrup, which was successful in the 2012 series, is an excellent example of this fantastic use of England’s natural bounty.

A huge amount of work is involved in his technical, experimental plates – all of which are perfected in Simon’s dedicated development kitchen Aulis, found next to the main restaurant. Equipped with every cutting-edge gadget available to the world of food and cooking, the kitchen is staffed by his trusted farmer/food scientist/chef employees and serves all of his enterprises. Although inspiration comes from many sources, the seasons and available ingredients remain the focus – if they can’t use something straight away, it is preserved for future plates.

In 2008 he opened Rogan & Co, an informal restaurant and bar only a few yards away from L’Enclume which won a Michelin star in 2018. In 2011 came Roganic, his organic ‘pop-up’ in London, which although also showcased the best of British, local and seasonal was a little more relaxed and cosmopolitan than the offerings at L’Enclume. It closed in 2013.

In 2013 he took over management of The French at the Midland Hotel in Manchester, offering tasting menus featuring his precise, meticulously thought-out creations, such as smoked Maran yolk with yellow turnip, truffle and mushroom broth, Butter-poached hake with salt-baked abalone, leeks and cockles, and Baked quince with bay leaf, ginger biscuit and brown butter ice cream. A further Simon Rogan restaurant, Mr Cooper’s House and Garden, opened at the same venue in 2015. This 200-cover, brasserie-style eatery offered a more internationally inflected menu with small plates and à la carte dishes such as Buttermilk fried oyster with kimchee purée, pear and pickled fennel, roasted sweetheart cabbage steaks with teriyaki sauce, grated Wiltshire truffles and hot wasabi mayonnaise, and chilled lemongrass soup with green tea wafers and coconut sorbet.

In 2014 he took over the menus at Fera, in Claridge’s, London. Offering food of the same ambition as L’Enclume but without any repetition of particular dishes, tasting plates include fresh buttermilk curds and watercress, pickled kohlrabi, tantan lettuce and cobnuts. The restaurant was awarded one Michelin star in the 2015 guide.

In both the 2014 and 2015 Good Food Guides, L’Enclume was named the best restaurant in Britain, edging out revered competitors such as Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. With this accolade, Simon Rogan was marked out as the best chef in Britain, a chef dedicated to the incredible but undervalued abundance of British farms and forests. His astonishingly complex, painstakingly developed dishes dazzle in every endeavour he turns his hand to and he continues to achieve and push the boundaries at the very top of British cuisine.

In 2017 Simon parted ways with The French and Fera to focus on his own independent restaurants. Later that year he opened Aulis London, an exclusive eight-seater chef's table and development kitchen, and in early 2018 he reopened Roganic as a permanent site in Marylebone, winning a Michelin star until it closed again in 2020. Next came Henrock, in the Lake District, which is a more informal restaurant but still full of the classic Rogan style. All of Simon's restaurants make the most of the produce harvested from Our Farm, and he works with the best suppliers in the country. There's even outposts of Aulis and Roganic in Hong Kong. There's no question that Simon's farm to fork approach has changed gastronomy in the UK – and beyond.