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Sea change: Will Holland at Jersey’s Ocean Restaurant at The Atlantic Hotel

Sea change: Will Holland on Jersey’s Ocean at The Atlantic

by Great British Chefs 17 April 2018

We catch up with chef Will Holland to see how his cooking style has changed since joining The Atlantic Hotel, and how he’s making the restaurant his own with its new Tasting Room.

Chef Will Holland must love working by the sea. Having spent four years at Coast – a restaurant he helped open overlooking the Pembrokeshire shoreline – at the end of 2017 he upped sticks to Jersey, to take over from Mark Jordan as executive chef of The Atlantic Hotel. Since then he’s launched The Tasting Room, a fourteen-cover intimate space at Ocean Restaurant serving tasting menus highlighting the island’s incredible produce, and reinvigorated the restaurant’s main menu with his own little twists and flair.

Leaving Coast wasn’t an easy decision, though – Will had been there from the start, and the restaurant revolved around his cooking. ‘I was at Coast for nearly four years and was there from when it first opened and my wife was the restaurant manager so it was a very personal thing, but it felt like it was the right time to leave,’ he explains. ‘But when I heard the job at The Atlantic was going I just couldn’t resist – opportunities like that don’t come up very often. I’m at a point in my career when I still want to push myself and achieve as much as I can, and I think being at The Atlantic can help me with that. Me and my wife also have a baby and Jersey is a beautiful place to bring up a child, and my wife wanted to get back into work after maternity leave, so it all fitted into place.’

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It was The Atlantic’s stellar reputation that prompted Will and his wife Kamila to make the move. Despite being a hotel the food offering is certainly the headline act, with recognition in the Michelin Guide and elsewhere playing a key role in turning Jersey into a culinary destination. This, combined with the island’s famous produce, makes it a strong draw for any chef. ‘It’s been a real journey since coming here and discovering what produce Jersey has to offer – very motivational from a chef point of view,’ says Will. ‘My cooking style has changed slightly as Ocean Restaurant is more fine dining than Coast was, and it has a slightly more classical feel.’

While Coast had a more relaxed approach to fine food, Ocean Restaurant is more traditional, with white tablecloths et al. This is reflected in the menu – although Will has made sure his own personality is on show in the dishes too. ‘One of the starters we’re doing is a salad of Jersey crab with a little curried mayonnaise, mango salsa, a crab fishcake and coriander oil. It encapsulates where my style is at here – taking the best of a local product and then including influences from my career to date and my travels. We’ve got Jersey turbot on the menu too, which is just amazing. We roast it and serve it with a Jersey shellfish risotto and sea vegetables, which grow like wildfire down in the bay. That comes with burnt onions, an onion oil and some tender leeks as well.’

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It would be mad to be a chef on Jersey without using the local produce, particularly when ingredients like the famed Jersey Royals are in season. But what makes Will’s food interesting is his combination of what’s on the island with the best produce from around the world. ‘The supply routes into Jersey are very good, so we can get anything we want from anywhere in the world delivered,’ he explains. ‘But there’s this fantastic sense of self-sustainability on the island, and the produce isn’t only fantastic – it supports the local economy. The quality of the milk, butter and cream is so good, as is Jersey beef and of course the fish and shellfish. I’ve even found a farmer rearing pigs here, and obviously Jersey Royal potatoes are as fresh as they can be and amazing. There’s so much to choose from and utilise.’

It’s clear that Will has settled into Ocean Restaurant at The Atlantic Hotel, enjoying the new challenges and access to fantastic ingredients. But with his past Michelin success and the restaurant’s longstanding star, he must be feeling the pressure. ‘A lot of people have been asking me about Michelin because I’ve earned a star myself in the past and The Atlantic has had one for over ten years. I’m here to cook my food and do my thing, and if Michelin and the other guides come here and like what they eat, then the accolades will follow. But it’s certainly not the reason I get out of bed in the morning – there’s a lot to do here. It’s not just Ocean restaurant. I’m in charge of all food offerings at The Atlantic including breakfast, afternoon teas, weddings, functions, buffets and everything else. There’s a lot more to it than coming up with one menu.’

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