We are pleased to welcome Mr Simon John to Tormead as our new Head Chef. Read on to find out more about Simon and what brings him to Tormead.
Welcome to Tormead! Can you tell us a bit about your background and career history?
My earliest memories of cooking are from watching my mum in the kitchen, where I recall being fascinated by all the amazing meals she would create. This inspiration led me to develop my interest in cooking professionally, and after school I went to college to study as a chef. Having worked in various areas of the industry, such as hotels, restaurants, event catering and schools, I have gleaned a vast array of experience, working up from commis to Head Chef and Catering Manager.
What do you love about cooking?
I love how cooking provides you with the freedom to create and be expressive. There is a real joy in exploring and creating new flavours, and then putting them to use in your dishes. Ultimately, however, it is watching people enjoy eating my creations that continues to fuel my passion for food.
What attracted you to working in schools?
Schools are great places to work; there is a real satisfaction to be found in providing restaurant quality, healthy food, all on such a large scale. Also, with so much going on at Tormead, in any one day we could be catering for breakfasts, buffets, school lunches and even large à la carte dining events – which really keeps the kitchen buzzing with creative energy! It’s also important to mention how exciting it can be to take the’ traditional school meal’, add a little bit of extra flare and creativity, then watch the students really enjoy something that has stretched their taste buds.
What do you think students are looking for when they pick their lunch?
It’s key to remember that students of differing ages will be looking for different things when selecting their lunch, and as part of my vision for Tormead, we should be providing something for everyone. My goal is to ensure we serve high quality, familiar and simpler foods, that our youngest students commonly enjoy, alongside a more varied and worldly alternative, designed to encourage some food interest and exploration.
What is your vision for food at Tormead?
My vision is to provide high quality, healthy, traditional foods, whilst adding some contemporary twists. With a varied, interesting and tasty menu, I think we can inspire a keen interest in food and get people talking about their lunch!
What exciting ideas do you have for food at Tormead?
Variation is key and I will be creating a new menu cycle to ensure food at Tormead remains fresh and interesting. There will also be a rotating ‘theme bar’, running every Thursday, where we will showcase some special, slightly different foods, to offer students an opportunity to expand their world view. I will also be bringing in ‘mini tasting tables’, where some exciting, small dishes or sides will be on offer. Students can select one as an optional extra to the girls main lunch. This fun idea will encourage the students to ‘have a go’ and explore new tastes and textures – for example, we recently offered a ‘mini haggis’ side, which the students loved trying!
Are there any well known or celebrity chefs you admire and why?
I seek my inspiration from all over; from simply spotting a new ingredient in the supermarket, to reading a cook book, eating in restaurants or watching a food show on TV! One of my favourite celebrity chefs would have to be Rick Stein, Rick has an amazing passion for food and is always keen to explore, try new things, learn and expand his own knowledge.
What is your view on healthy eating and sustainability in food?
The basis for everything we do in the kitchen at Tormead is nutrition. Positive nutritional values are at the core of my cooking, and on the menu every day at Tormead you will see we use ingredients that are not just healthy and nutritious, but also locally sourced, with a low carbon footprint. We call these ‘future proof foods’ and if you look at our daily menus, they can be identified by a little green sticker next to the dish. Whether it is local fruit and veg, local low-fat meats or sustainable pulses, grains and greens, we do our best, to do our bit, for both the planet and the students health.
When you’re not cooking, what else do you like to do?
Alongside my passion for food, I have a great love for music, playing the guitar and singing, as part of a band.