Simon Shand

Simon Shand

An alumnus of Wild Honey and Arbutus, Simon Shand has gone on cook his own style of classically grounded food at The Corner Room and more recently at Shoreditch's Leroy.

Although many chefs are set on constantly trying to push boundaries with their cookery and move away from the traditional, there are just as many proving that, when done well, classical cookery can still be just as impressive. Often the dishes which are most memorable aren’t those packed full of modern technique but the ones that involve a few simple ingredients treated with the utmost care, and that’s exactly what Simon Shand’s food is all about. Having mastered classical technique working under the likes of Anthony Demetre at Wild Honey, he’s now channelling all his experience into his own menu of small plates at Shoreditch's Leroy.

Cookery didn’t always come naturally to Simon, though; growing up in Worthing, his family were never particularly into food and rarely cooked, so when he started working in a local café after college, he had plenty to learn, ‘I was being pushed towards doing front of house but I really wanted to do the kitchen side of things,’ he explains, ‘I was honestly appalling at it for a few years but for some reason I was determined it was what I wanted to do.’ Simon slowly but surely sharpened his skills in the café kitchen, before moving into Brighton to work a gastropub called The Chimney House, where he started to learn about the ins and outs of classical French cookery.

Things started to get more serious for the young chef when he took a position in the kitchen at Gravetye Manor – a luxury hotel in Sussex, where he stayed for two years, ‘I thought I was already good at cooking,’ laughs Simon, ‘but then I arrived there and realised I wasn’t; it was just such a big jump in terms of level. We all lived on site, so we were fully immersed in it; we’d pick stuff from the beautiful kitchen garden and I was able to work on so many different sections – I loved it.’ By his early twenties, London came calling and after being blown away by a meal at Anthony Demetre’s Arbutus (‘I remember them doing this stuffed rabbit saddle, which they served with a cottage pie made out of the shoulder, and thinking it was so clever’) Simon visited the kitchen to ask for a job, and was offered one on the spot.

Simon spent just eight months at Arbutus before he was transferred to sister restaurant Wild Honey. There, under the guidance of Demetre himself, Simon started to get a feel for the style of food that he really enjoyed cooking, ‘working at Wild Honey was such a formative experience for me,’ he says, ‘there was just something about the way Anthony cooks that I really connected with. Even now, I’d say that my food is stylistically very similar to his in the way it’s largely grounded in French and Italian cooking but isn’t overly technical. You visit places where everything is so precise and grounded, and I love eating that kind of food, but I wouldn’t have a chance with it – it just doesn’t work in my head.’

Having arrived at Wild Honey as a chef de partie, Simon left three years later as senior sous and, after then working at Frenchie for year, decided to take a short break from working in restaurants (‘I think all the long hours and intense shifts had slightly taken their toll’). For a few months, he split his time between working in a North London café and cooking across Europe, but soon another job in a restaurant came begging, this time at The Corner Room in Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel. Simon joined as sous chef of the small-plates restaurant but after just six months was made head chef for the first time in career, which turned out to be a pivotal moment for him.

‘I think making that step up was exactly what I needed at that moment,’ explains Simon, ‘I’d started to get to the point where I was getting a bit tired of the industry, and wasn’t getting loads out of it any more. But I fell in love with it all again when I got offered the head chef position. I already felt confident in my ability by that point but I honestly think I learnt more in that first year as head chef than I had done in the rest of my career. I was given such a free rein to do what I wanted, so I started reading loads and trying out new ideas. At one point I was changing the menu every day, just to try new dishes. It was mayhem but that was how I found my style.’

In 2021, after four years at The Corner Room, Simon left to become head chef of acclaimed Shoreditch restaurant and wine bar Leroy. There, he'd be able to continue offering a similar style of menu to that of the Corner Room, but with an added level of refinement. His classical-leaning small plates proved at hit with Leroy's legion of fans and cemented him as a chef of immense quality.

Simon may not be reinventing the wheel with his food but nor is he claiming to be. This young chef’s cookery is all about putting flavour first ahead of complexity. You won’t find gels, mists or foams on any of his menus, but you will be guaranteed food that tastes fantastic and has been beautifully executed, and that’s why Simon’s cookery continues to delight guests day in and day out.