Sat, Feb 16, 2019 - Page 13 News List

This may be the world’s best potato

Clare Smyth has worked under Alain Ducasse at the three-Michelin-star Louis XV in Monaco and was the guardian of Gordon Ramsay’s three stars for almost a decade, the first woman ever to hold three stars in the UK

By Richard Vines  /  Bloomberg

A dish of Potato and Roe last month sits on display at the Core by Clare Smyth restaurant in the Notting Hill district of London, UK.

Photo: Bloomberg

Clare Smyth is one of the world’s leading chefs. So what is the centerpiece of the menu at her two-Michelin-starred restaurant?

A potato.

The Charlotte spud is slow-cooked in a marinade of butter and seaweed, then allowed to marinate for another 24 hours before being topped with smoked trout and herring roe from Scotland and served with beurre blanc. It comes with miniature salt-and-vinegar crisps that cut through the richness of the butter and provide crunch for texture.

This signature dish at Core by Clare Smyth in London is both a homage to her childhood in Northern Ireland and a bold statement of her desire to combine sophisticated cooking with a simplicity of style.

Other chefs are taking notice.

“Clare does incredibly clever things with simple ingredients,” says Brett Graham, who holds two Michelin stars at the nearby Ledbury, in Notting Hill. “It takes a chef with real skill to turn something as simple as a potato into something absolutely delicious. Clare has been cooking at the top level for many years. It is great to see her taking center stage with her own restaurant and getting the recognition she deserves.”

Indeed, she is gaining recognition. Amid multiple accolades, she won two Michelin stars straight out last year, skipping the usual starter of one. She was named World’s

HAILED AS BEST FEMALE CHEF

Smyth was raised on a farm on the north coast of Northern Ireland. It’s only 800km from London but a different world from the glamour of her restaurant, where the classic tasting menu costs £115 (US$150) and the wine pairing another £105.

“I grew up eating potatoes every single day with every meal, being Irish,” she says of her childhood in Bushmills, County Antrim. “So later, when we were in kitchens making pomme puree or whatever, I would eat a single boiled potato with salt and pepper on it before every service. It was my head chef, Jonny (Bone) who said, ‘Do you realize? We’ve got to do a potato dish.’ So we started to develop it.”

Seaweed was also common in the kitchen of her childhood, and the family land near the water infused their produce with a taste of the ocean.

“We chose to use the herring and trout roes rather than caviar because, again, it is staying away from luxury ingredients. But they are delicious and they have a pop that really works for the texture of the potato. So it is kind of quite classic in a way, but it’s satisfying, homely. It’s who I am. It is simple.”

Smyth’s has been an exceptional career. She’s worked under Alain Ducasse at the three-Michelin-star Louis XV in Monaco and was the guardian of Gordon Ramsay’s three stars for almost a decade, the first woman ever to hold three stars in the UK. She became Ramsay’s head chef in one of London’s toughest kitchens at the age of 28 and he named her chef-patron of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in 2012.

Speculation is rife throughout the industry that her third star is a matter of time, maybe even this year.

“It was tough. It was really, really tough. But that’s what I wanted”

“Clare is brilliant,” says Sat Bains, who holds two Michelin stars at his eponymous restaurant in Nottingham. “She is one of the best chefs in the world. It won’t be long before she’s back where she was at [Gordon Ramsay] Royal Hospital Road in terms of accolade — becoming a world-class restaurant with three Michelin stars, without a doubt. That’s her default setting.” (Bains has a much-admired potato dish on his own menu.)

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