"It's important to strike a balance when you work somewhere like Swinfen Hall Hotel," explained Adam. "I take care to consider the clientele and our culture as a country house hotel when I'm planning dishes. It is vital that we don't try to be something we're not. I admire the slick London restaurants but that's not what we're about or what our customers expect. I concentrate on using the freshest ingredients to produce stunning food at every opportunity from breakfast through to lunch, afternoon tea and of course, for dinner and special events," he went on.
Adam favours a classical cooking style but enjoys experimenting and trying new twists on traditional dishes. He has recently started using a 'smoking gun' so he can cold smoke ingredients. He also has a vacuum packing machine that he uses for different cooking techniques or for food preparation. He is interested in providing more theatre but without compromising flavour.
He says that certain well-known chefs, known for their crazy cooking techniques, don't always put flavour before theatre.
"There are no powders, chemicals or enumbers used here that are essential when producing some of the drama you'll see in other chef's cooking!" he explained.
Of his culinary heroes, he looks to Marco Pierre White and Philip Howard (The Square, London) for inspiration as he admires their hands-on approach and style. "These are chefs who still cook and are very much in touch with food and what it's all about" he enthused. He is also an avid reader of cookery books and food magazines — a useful way to consider new flavour combinations or cooking methods.
Adam also enjoys eating out although it will always be a 'busman's holiday' as he tends to evaluate and disseminate other chef's work! Adam is keen to develop the skills of his team and help them grow.
Typically, within any kitchen environment, staff will work up through the ranks at a fairly quick pace — so keeping a cohesive team together whilst they all learn skills and gain experience is a juggling act.
Adam admits he often uses good ideas that are offered by his team — indicative of the experience and confidence they are gaining.
The restaurant won ‘Best Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year’ in the 2012 Taste of Staffordshire Awards and that reflects the whole team effort.
In the past three years, Adam has implemented a number of changes to the food service. He sees silver service as no longer fashionable but quite wasteful and inefficient so this was a practice that was abandoned as he took over as Head Chef.
"I've seen a huge increase in the popularity of afternoon tea thanks to the cupcake revolution! Margot, our pastry chef, makes the most amazing, fresh buttermilk scones daily and her mini cakes are beautiful — she creates traditional pastries with a modern twist".
Adam's influence on Afternoon Tea has been to try alternatives to traditional finger sandwiches using ingredients such as char-grilled Thai chicken for example.
Adam has also introduced an eightcourse Tasting Menu and Vegetarian Tasting Menu that has proved to be a huge hit with diners.
As you’d expect, it reflects the seasons and gives guests the chance to enjoy a far wider range of Adam’s signature dishes and new ideas.
There is also the option to try the Tasting Menus with carefully selected wines from the Swinfen cellars.
Overall Adam plans his menus around ingredients that are at the peak of the season and bases dishes on flavour and combinations of those ingredients. "It's always taste first, presentation second," he stated.
Adam is currently working on an Eastern inspired menu specially requested for an Indian wedding.
He has visited several local Indian restaurants for ideas and has come up with a menu that is essentially Indian but still works within the environment of an English country house setting.
He is using good quality ingredients in a lovely menu that comprises tandoori marinated Cornish lamb rump with Pilau rice, locally produced cauliflower and red onion bhaji, dahl sauce and naan bread – much to the delight of the Indian bride and groom to be.
For the future, Adam is very keen to utilise more of Swinfen's 100-acre estate by persuading owner, Helen Wiser to take on some pigs and sheep and creating a game larder.
He currently cures estate venison in a Parma ham style. "I like to use whole animals so we can do our own butchery, produce our own stock and use every bit of it — it's less wasteful and we have so many more options open to us when we have the entire animal."
The kitchen staff also make the most of the hotel's Victorian walled garden where they work closely with Scott, the hotel’s Head Gardener to plan the best vegetables, herbs and soft fruits that can be incorporated into the seasonal dishes.
It's a handy resource, being just a few metres from the kitchen.
Adam has come to know the hotel's regular diners, often spending time talking to them and even adapting dishes without being asked to if he knows their specific tastes.
He enjoys this immensely, saying that getting feedback from the restaurant’s guests means he is 100 per cent involved in every aspect from start to finish.