What food concepts inspire you most and why?
I take my inspiration from restaurants that utilise as much local produce as possible. Menus need to be seasonal and make full use of what is available on the restaurant’s doorstep. Anywhere where good-quality food is cooked well. A prime example is Sticky Walnut in Hoole, Chester.
What trend do you think is having the most influence on pub menus?
The traditional suet pudding — take a look at our Beef & Pudding site in Manchester. Cleaned up dirty food will be the next trend.
What do you think are the biggest crimes against pub food?
Places claiming to have home-made food, when in fact they are sourcing pre-made products through nationally known suppliers.
What is the key to keeping chefs and kitchen staff motivated?
Apart from supplying them beer at the end of each shift, encourage chefs to put their own influences in to each menu. A chef should be proud of every dish they serve and a way of making them proud is giving the chef every opportunity to have their dishes on the menu — something we actively promote in the New Moon Pub Company.
What is the best thing you have introduced to your company’s food offer in the past year?
The introduction of our sharing bone roast fore rib of English beef for four, which brings people together around a dinner table. It makes customers interact with each other while they carve their own steaks off the bone. It also makes for a huge talking point while at the restaurant or pub and to friends the next day.
Also, our Mockingbird Taproom menu. Pan Gulf cuisine offer is a new adventure for the company, and I have been instrumental in menu compilation and delivery.
What would be your three ‘desert island’ pub dishes?
Pâté — it’s, for me, the starter that is on the menu of every pub you walk into. It needs to be made right with the right amount of seasoning — a winner every time.
Fish & Chips — there’s nothing more British. Thick white buttered bread is a must.
Beefham Tower Burger — probably only burger that’s served with a mushy pea suet pudding. We sell hundreds every week.
What do customers in 2014 want?
Customers still want value for money, but the difference is they want quality with that value. Pubs need to be clever with their menus, use local produce, and use the chef’s skills to their full potential when prepping and cooking produce.
What is your idea of a perfect pub menu?
A perfect pub menu should consist of seven to eight starters. These should include everything from a house soup & pâté, to something a little more different. Main courses need to be a varied selection of 12 to 14 choices. You have got to have your go-to dishes, house burger, fish & chips, curry — but, on the other hand, you need to balance these out with dishes of perhaps a little different taste, braised oxtail, tempura cod cheeks, etc.
For dessert, I think a choice of six plus a cheese slate. These have to be classics — treacle tart, chocolate brownie or apple pie, etc.
What is the best dish you have eaten in a pub recently?
Corn-fed chicken breast with summer peas & butter sauce at Sticky Walnut. It was cooked with passion, served by people that don’t just care about the food but about the customer’s experience.
How are you gearing up for the allergen legislation being introduced in December?
We are working closely with our suppliers, but as we make 98% of our dishes in-house, we know what goes into every sauce and dish. This enables us to meet the new allergen legislation.