Three Michelin stars. A total of nine restaurants in England, Hong Kong and Malta. An essential part of English restaurant history. Yes, you could say that Simon Rogan (exclusive portrait story) has already achieved everything, done everything, ticked everything off the list that can be achieved in a life dedicated to culinary delights.
Looking for new ideas and inspiration
But even twenty years after the daring feat of converting an old forge into the L’Enclume (French for ‘anvil’), a restaurant of the highest standard, in the 4,800-strong village of Cartmel in North West England, the 55-year-old still isn’t ready to stop. Simon Rogan has a long journey ahead. More precisely: to Australia. Even more precisely: to Sydney. The Michelin-starred chef seeks for new ideas and inspiration and plans to escape the summer in the northern hemisphere to move to Bathers’ Pavilion, a restaurant on Balmoral Beach in northern Sydney, for an exclusive five-week guest appearance. From July 19 to August 20 2023, Rogan will “combine some of our favorite L’Enclume dishes with great local ingredients only available in Australia,” he explains.
Originally planned for 2020, the so-called “residency” was postponed by three years due to coronavirus. However: “Since we celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2022, this is now the perfect time, because we are looking forward to continuing the celebrations there.”
Cooking in cultural heritage
“There” is a two-story building in “Spanish Mission Revival” style architecture, completed in 1929. Now a part of Australian cultural heritage, the Bathers’ Pavilion once served as a swimming pavilion for local swimmers and sun-hungry visitors, as its name suggests. Pavilions like these were extremely popular in the 20th century, especially in the Commonwealth. The building contained small shops, changing rooms, showers and toilets as well as a few coffee shops and restaurants. The latter can still be found in the Balmoral Bather’s Pavilion today. As a fine-dining restaurant. And for a short time even complete with a Michelin star chef.
For the journey down under, he will be entrusting his “empire” in England to the people he trusts completely: Tom Barnes, Executive Chef of the restaurants in Lake District, has been working with Simon Rogan for 13 years, and Paul Burgalieres, Head Chef at L’Enclume, for over five years. “The pair know what they are doing,” Simon says with confidence. I know I’m leaving the restaurants in competent hands.
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Simon Rogan: not without my team
However, he won’t be leaving the entire team at home. He won’t be able to. Since Simon Rogan can’t relocate his kitchen equipment from Cartmel for logistical reasons, the exceptional chef is faced with the challenge of still being able to deliver the proven quality in the new environment. And that will only be possible with a well-coordinated team. “My Executive Chef Oli Marlow and my Managing Director Sam Ward will be accompanying me along with some experienced chefs who have all worked together before,” says Rogan with confidence.
“Oli runs my restaurants in Hong Kong and is therefore very familiar with cooking around the world. We will work with local suppliers from the city and the surrounding area. It was really great to find people who share my visions. For example, Chris Bolton, who is leading the way in sustainable fishing practices. We will also be working with a Sydney-based ceramicist who will make bespoke tableware for the residency. That’s something we’re already doing at L’Enclume, so I wanted to bring that with me to Australia.”
Although L’Enclume has three Michelin stars, the atmosphere there is always really relaxed, says Simon Rogan. “I think this will also be the case in Australia. There will be new dishes, new compositions, but the ambiance and feeling will be familiar. Cameron Johnston, Head Chef of Bathers’ Pavilion, was at L’Enclume last April. “It really helps if you’ve already got to know each other and know how each other works in the kitchen.”
And this process is still a familiar one even far from home; after all, the menu at L’Enclume is constantly changing with the seasons. Except for a dish that has been on the menu in different variations in several Rogan restaurants for years and will also be offered in the Bathers’ Pavilion: the Berkswell Pudding. “There will be slight adjustments as we use local ingredients, but the look, taste and shape will remain the same.” His style will remain the same, as will his respect for the ingredients. The high-quality organic ingredients, as Simon Rogan points out.
Hyper-seasonal, local and creative – even down under
The ingredients played a major role in his decision to accept a residency in Australia. The top chef grows many of his ingredients on his own farm Our Farm north of Cartmel in the Lake District National Park, or The Lakes. “So it will be really interesting to be able to cook with local Australian products. I’m particularly excited about seafood, because Sydney is known for its excellent seafood and shellfish.”
The Australian metropolis also has a fantastic food scene, so he has longed for the opportunity to present his food to some of the chefs there for ages. The farm-to-table approach, which L’Enclume is known for, fits in well with Australians, says Rogan. “They’re familiar with the local products I will be using, but I’m going to cook them in a slightly different way. I’m really looking forward to experimenting with them – and I know my team feels the same. I want to bring my hyper-seasonal, local and creative cuisine to Australia for those who have never been to The Lakes before.”
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The Bathers’ Pavilion team suggested sustainability-focused suppliers to Simon Rogan some time ago. The 55-year-old also got tips from friends in Sydney. “I’ve been talking to some of them for months and I’m really happy that we’ll be working together here.”
And why Bathers’ Pavilion? “They have a similar ethos to L’Enclume, they have an understanding of sustainability and respect for ingredients. And the view of the sea and the beautiful, listed building where the restaurant is housed aren’t bad either!”
Has he considered staying for longer than five weeks? Could there be a permanent Simon Rogan location in Australia, as is already the case in Hong Kong and Valetta? Simon’s brief answer: “Never say never. But nothing is planned at the moment.” So there is hope down under.