Meet the Chef - Jon Smith, HQ Collection
PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 April 2020
Catching up with HQ Collection’s Executive Head Chef, Jon Smith
When did your career in the kitchen begin?
When I was a young boy I earned my pocket money in the kitchen of my auntie’s pub in Knaresborough. Although I mainly washed pots and peeled veg I was always eager to learn. So when I was handed the crucial role of preparing the pubs signature dish I was thrilled, as I had watched this be prepare religiously. It was my job to hollow out the home-made bread baked in a clay plant pot, to make room for a garlic butter, bacon and mushroom filling. It was a great dish!
What experiences made you the chef you are today?
My first serious position was in Zapotec, the owner David Taylor had previously worked at the legendary Sharrow Bay, the Lake District. He was a huge influential character who taught me the real principles of good ingredients, he would dash through the door with bags of fresh langoustines and handpicked samphire. I then worked in Singapore at the Pan Pacific hotel, their culinary style was a real eye opener and I gained some lifelong skills. Following that for 14 years I ran my own restaurant Peppers and opened the Hares leap farm shop & deli producing charcuterie; air dried hams, chorizo, salamis and sausages from our saddleback pigs.
I accepted the role as head chef at The Plough in 2015, it was undergoing a major renovation and I had the opportunity of working with the renowned Pipe & Glass owner James Mackenzie and The Plough’s new owner Nick Thomas, in producing a menu filled with exciting Yorkshire flavours to match its charming stylish interior.
Explain your job role?
Recently I’ve been promoted to executive head chef for the four venues that make up the HQ Collection. I’m looking forward to providing support and guidance for our fantastic team of chefs. It’s a great opportunity to mentor local chefs, giving them the encouragement to work to their full potential and essentially increase performance for the company. With the lack of young chefs a well-known fact this is my chance to give back to the culinary community.
What’s your favourite style of cooking?
Big rooted Yorkshire flavours and decent portions, this concept I’ve been lucky to portray when producing The Plough’s menus – by using the best local ingredients at the right time of year, to enhance the quality of dishes. I’m proud to say I use this style on my days off too, I’ve built an Asado grill which I use to create tasty family meals; outdoor cooking is a real joy of mine along with producing my annual home-made cider. But I do have a guilty pleasure for the colourful flavours of Mexico too!
What’s in the limelight for 2020 at The Plough?
Last year we had the exciting news of featuring in the Good Food Guide 2020 and held our first gourmet night with James Mackenzie. This was a success and sold out within two days of being on sale! There are plans for another night so keep an eye out for this. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a local interest in quality food, so we’ll be hosting our own gourmet evenings soon, along with a Yorkshire Life Luncheon.
Do you have a favourite Yorkshire Ingredient?
I’m a fan of game and have a long list of friends in the local area who supply me with some amazing venison, pigeon game birds and rabbits. There’s something special about these meats arriving fresh on your doorstep and creating a flawless dish that’s bursting with genuine Yorkshire flavours.
How do you choose to unwind after a busy day?
Much to everyone’s surprise I enjoy blacksmithing, I know it’s a hobby that many wouldn’t associate with relaxing but it certainly helps to let off some steam! I can assure you there’s not a boring hook or door handle in sight in our house!