A Recipe for Success at The Wordsworth Hotel
Jaid Smallman has been Head Chef at the Wordsworth Hotel for seven years. During this time, he’s had recipes published in various regional cookbooks, developed dishes to support the Wild Oceans Sustainable Seafood Project and seen the hotel’s Signature Restaurant gain a coveted AA rosette for culinary excellence. With responsibility for the hotel’s two restaurants: the informal Dove Bistro and the fine dining Signature Restaurant, Jaid’s passion for authentically produced seasonal produce shines through in his menus. But spend five minutes with him (he’s a busy man) and you’ll quickly feel his infectious enthusiasm for the role and the region too.
What brought you to the Wordsworth Hotel?
I trained initially in the South, and then spent a decade working in high end hotels in the Lake District including the Samling, Holbeck Ghyll and Gilpin Lodge. I also spent a couple of years at The Castle Green Hotel in Kendal, where I learnt the multi outlet, conference and banqueting skills which serve me well in my role at The Wordsworth today – especially for large events like weddings and conferences that have a level of complexity.
The Wordsworth is my first Head Chef role and I have remained in the post so long as it very much suits my wide skillset; with the variety of catering styles that we use and production for two simultaneous restaurants from one kitchen, there is always plenty of challenge!
Did you always want to be a chef?
I actually started cooking bits and pieces at quite a young age. Both of my grandmothers were amazing, natural cooks and food was always a core aspect of family life. The first recipe I followed was actually devised by one of my grandmothers. It was ‘egg nest’, which comprised of a savoury meringue on toast with the yolk baked into the centre as if it were in a nest. I would have been around six years old.
I didn’t know that I would come into the industry. I had been studying various media subjects when I took a summer job as a kitchen porter in a busy family run restaurant. The food there was simple but really fresh and the chefs were really inspiring. That and my competitive nature; I wanted to do what they did and even do it better! It took a long time and a lot of really hard work, but I exceeded my own aspirations in the end by working at Michelin star level.
Initially I came into the industry with the idea that I would be able to travel with my work and also, I was very confident that I would be able to be proficient if I worked hard. The second part of this came true, but I settled in Cumbria and am raising my daughter who is fifteen years old now instead of the travelling aspect. I consider myself lucky to be able to live and work in such a beautiful part of the country.
What do you take inspiration from when creating a menu?
When I am creating a new dish, I start with the primary ingredient which I explore sourcing options for. Ideally, I am looking for the best of the seasonal produce and if this can be found in the local area all the better. I then consider the flavour profile of that main ingredient and explore seasonal produce options which I am sure will complement it. I prefer to adhere to classic flavour combinations as my main goal is to achieve customer satisfaction over a wide demographic, but I do sometimes add little, unusual touches if I am sure that they will be appreciated. The next stage is to interpret these ingredients in an architectural manner and consider how best to showcase the food in a clean and dramatic way. Once I am satisfied with the dish concept, I will do a cook off for the staff so that I can garner feedback and consider things like which wines would complement it best. I try to create dishes that have distinct and well-balanced character.
What’s on the menu for this season?
Some of the latest additions to the menu in our Signature restaurant have been the addition of vegan suitable dishes which are intended to be robust and interesting enough to appeal to many of our customers. This includes a dish which uses sustainably produced Abalone mushrooms which are grown in Hampshire. Another more indulgent addition is our rhubarb and custard dish, for which we use rhubarb sourced from the adjacent county of Yorkshire and it’s proving very popular!
Proudest career achievement?
One of the things that I am proudest of since becoming Head Chef is the Junior chefs that I have developed. I consider that if I can build a chef’s experience and competence and they then go on to either work in prestigious restaurants or become Head Chefs themselves, this is a genuine achievement. There have been many over the last few years.
What’s your signature dish?
Cuts of British Lamb, Shoulder, Saddle & Sweetbreads, Globe Artichokes, Heritage Potatoes, Lilliput Capers.
The dish is intended to showcase very different lamb elements. The loin is cooked lightly and served pink, whereas the shoulder is braised slowly for many hours to develop real depth of flavour. The sweetbreads are creamy and caramelised and provide a distinct contrast to the other cuts. The globe artichokes are a really delicious vegetable and in conjunction with the capers in the sauce, they provide an acidity which balances the richness of the meats.
If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
I can’t imagine anything worse than having to limit one of life’s greatest pleasures to just one dish! Even if it was incredible, it would soon lose its appeal; variety is the spice of life. However, I do love a good Sunday roast. It would probably be chicken with both roast and mashed potatoes, lots of fresh and roast vegetables and loads of fatty gravy, yum!
The Signature Restaurant and Dove Bistro are open daily for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and evening meals. Please view our menus online or to make a table reservation call us on 015394 35592. To book a Gourmet Getaway break take a look at our offers page.