Chris Simon Interview
The White Hart Hotel was taken over by Chef, Chris Simon, last December. Following the pub being closed, Chris was determined to re-open with the idea of having a restaurant inside to allow guests to enjoy his food that he is so passionate about creating.
We spoke to Chris during lockdown to talk about his career, cooking style, influences as well as what the White Hart's plans are for the festive season.
Tell us a little about your career so far and what brought you to the White Hart Hotel?
My career started in The Cricket Inn in Beesands, a pub/restaurant in south Devon right on the beach serving amazing seafood. Learning from the extremely talented head chef, Scott Heath. I simply couldn’t get enough. Learning what I could whenever I could. Self teaching myself everything outside of the restaurant menu.
I then moved to a bistro on Dartmoor. Realising I still had lots to learn I went to the ashburton cookery school to educate myself further and gain more inspiration. With new confidence in my cookery I sought work as a private chef on luxury superyachts to include my passion for travelling and love for cooking. Taking a massive risk flying to Spain to then cross the Atlantic and work in the Caribbean. I spent nearly 4 years working around the Mediterranean and Caribbean, learning and improving as a chef. Saving up my money so as to be able to have my own business.
Upon returning to England after my last season in November 2019 I found out the White Hart was closed. I knew this pub from living in the area previously and knew the potential it has and with such amazing produce in the south west it would be a sure hit! So I called the brewery and set up a meeting. I took over the pub in December.
What are your first memories of food?
My first memories of food would be making biscuits with my mum when I was a kid. This recipe for almond biscuits is still very close to my heart. I still make them to this day. Same recipe, same result!
At what age did you want to make a career as a Chef and who has influenced you?
It wasn’t till I was in my early twenties that I realised my interest in cooking was more than watching masterchef on the tv. I was a barman in what I didn’t realise when I started was a foodie haven! I asked far too many questions and bothered the chefs to find out how they were creating such beautiful food. Eventually after annoying the chef long enough I was told to come and find out myself! Once I started learning practically I became obsessed with reading cookery books from the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller, Tom Kerridge and so many other great chefs which influenced my cooking.
What is the ethos behind the food at The White Hart?
The idea behind the food at The White Hart is simple. Take amazing local produce, respect it and prepare it with care and an understanding of how lucky we are to have it available to us. Pair seasonal flavours with classic techniques and modern twists.
How would you best sum up your style of cooking?
My style of cooking would probably come under modern British, classic French. I also like to use some of the flavours and techniques I’ve learnt around the world in some of my dishes.
The pandemic has given all of us opportunity to learn new things. Are there any new dishes, flavour combinations or ingredients you have discovered (or rediscovered) during lockdown?
I’ll admit I’ve used both lockdowns mainly to improve the pub. I’ve spent more time with a paint brush than a spatula. But I take time to sit and read through books and my old recipe notes to get inspiration to create new future menus. This time round has got some real treats on the menu!
We’ve got an exciting Christmas menu in the works, including a seasonal play on our White Hart chocolate bar. With times uncertain we are also trying to adapt a menu into a festive meal at home.
The hospitality industry has had a very difficult year. If you were able to introduce a new policy that could help bars and restaurants, what would it be?
I think we’ve had enough of policies now to be honest. We’ve jumped through all the hoops. The hospitality industry is safe! As long as we all keep to social distancing, sanitiser stations and take all the correct measures. If you go somewhere to eat out and keep to the guidance you’ll be fine. Sat at a well spaced out table that is cleaned regularly and enjoy a meal with the people in your bubble. Nothing wrong with that. In this trade it is our job to clean all surfaces regularly and make sure hygiene is a top priority before Covid and after.
The White Hart Hotel, Modbury,
2 Church St, Modbury, Ivybridge PL21 0QW
Tel: 01548 830652
With the festive season around the corner, what plans do you have to tempt us with?
We’ve got an exciting Christmas menu in the works, including a seasonal play on our White Hart chocolate bar. With times uncertain we are also trying to adapt a menu into a festive meal at home. Where we prepare the food and do all the hard work to be easily finished off in the comfort and safety of people’s own homes.
Tell us something interesting about you that not a lot of people know.
I was born in Guernsey in the Channel Islands, I’m scared of heights and have a mildly unhealthy hobby of axe throwing......