Pear fare

Related tags Marco pierre white Gordon ramsay

Stephen Terry has worked with Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay and the Roux brothers, but is now happily creating food at a Wiltshire pub. Mark...

Stephen Terry has worked with Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay and the Roux brothers, but is now happily creating food at a Wiltshire pub. Mark Taylor reports

Having spent much of his career cooking in Michelin-starred restaurants, Stephen Terry is used to accolades, but he seems genuinely thrilled with his latest awards.

It's just a few months since Terry took over as head chef at the Pear Tree in Whitley, and in that time he has already scooped the AA's Pub of the Year for England award and The Good Pub Guide's Wiltshire Dining Pub of the Year.

The 18th-century former cider house, which has been run by licensees Martin and Debbie Still since 1997, has seen a succession of chefs come and go, but Terry's track record speaks for itself and his arrival, initially as a consultant, has bolstered a business that already had a very good reputation for food.

Now aged 37, Terry has spent the past two decades working in some of the best restaurants in the country, alongside some of the biggest names in the business.

His career started in the mid-'80s under Marco Pierre White in his prime at Harveys (where one of his colleagues was a young Gordon Ramsay) and the Canteen, and went on to work with the Roux brothers and Oliver Peyton before taking over at the Walnut Tree at Abergavenny, where he won the legendary pub its first Michelin star.

Now quietly cooking in a Wiltshire pub, Terry appears happier than ever, but remains as confident and opinionated about the catering industry as ever.

"I always say to people that, after doing something for 20 years, if I wasn't pretty good at what I do I'd be a bit of a disappointment really.

"At the end of the day, this is what I'm good at because this is what I do and I do it a lot. We work very hard at being good at what we do here too, and it's great to be recognised for that with these awards."

With an annual gross turnover of "about £1m" and 800 covers each week, the Pear Tree is one of the busiest and most popular dining pubs in the West Country.

Although the dry:wet split is 60:40, the cosy bar, with its crackling log fire and range of local real ales, is an attraction in itself and the balance between pub and restaurant seems just right.

For customers who don't necessarily want to eat in the restaurant, there is a blackboard of bar bites' under £3, including snack-sized pieces of crispy belly pork with sweet and sour sauce or terrine on toast with pear chutney.

Wine is taken very seriously, too, with the excellent list supplemented by an impressive selection of 10 available by the glass.

But it's Terry's seasonal, Italian-influenced menus that have propelled the Pear Tree's food into a different league.

As well as a three-course set-lunch for £16, there is an a la carte menu with 11 starters and 12 main courses.

Starters are priced between £4 and £8, with main courses averaging around the £12 mark. Terry says that there's an average spend of £30 a head, and he's still working to a GP of 68% to 70%.

"The whole thing with the psychology of the menu involves pricing as well," he says. "You get so many places where main courses are £17, £18 or £19. Seventy-five per cent of our dishes are between £11.50 and £13.50.

"It's better to do more people at a lesser price than fewer people at a higher price, because the odds are always in your favour.

"And you have to be very careful with what words you use on menus because it can put people off. Some words just suggest expensive food.

"I want to write a menu as if I'm writing for my parents. My parents haven't trained in France or worked with the Roux brothers or with Marco Pierre White.

"I'm not writing menus for my peers or my critics, I'm writing for Mr and Mrs Average Joe. I'm trying to sell something to them ­ I'm a salesman."

Terry's biggest influence was Marco Pierre White, who he worked with for a total of five years. Simple unpretentious menu descriptions were always one of White's trademarks and Terry hopes he is continuing that tradition.

"Marco's style of writing menus, which is still the same, is without ands' and withs'. I like it to be a sentence, though. I like it to make sense in the English language.

"I don't like menus with bullet points, because I find that quite arrogant. To me that's a chef saying I'm too arrogant to describe it to you in a sentence'. A menu needs to be warm and user-friendly ­ you've got to relax people.

"Why was Bill Gates so successful with Microsoft Windows? Because it was so friendly to use. He didn't do too badly out of it!"

Stephen Terry on­

Menu Descriptions

"All these resting on' or nestling next to' descriptions are bullshit. It's the art of distraction. What are these chefs trying to distract you from ­ their lack of ability, their lack of confidence?"

Working for Marco Pierre White

"It wasn't just the cooking, it was the way he was, the person he was. It was a school of life, it was really full-on and you had to give 110% commitment and give up the rest of your life while you were there."

Towers of food

"All this towery food and putting things on top of mash. The first thing the customer has to do is lift it off the mash because otherwise it's going to splodge out of the sides. What's interesting about that? The logic of presenting a dish of food to anybody is that halfway through eating the dish, the dish resembles half of what first arrived. It shouldn't end up like a dog's dinner because you've had to piss around with it to find out what's what."

On the menu at the Pear Tree

Crispy, breadcrumbed belly of pork with shaved fennel, rocket, lemon and capers £5.75

Parma ham with buffalo mozzarella, black figs and balsamic vinegar £6.95

Venison ravioli with meat juices, Parmesan and Ligurian extra virgin olive oil £5.75

Boneless wing of skate with zucchini fries, brown butter, lemon, capers and parsley £12.95

Roast rare breed Middle White pork with sautéd artichokes and new potatoes £16.95

Shin of beef and carrots with mashed potato £11.50

Steamed spotted dick pudding and custard £5

Treacle tart with clotted cream £4.50

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