In the kitchen with Treby Arms’ new head chef Luke Fearon
It’s been an exciting few months at The Treby Arms, which saw previous leader Anton Piotrowski leave under a cloud of intrigue and Luke Fearon be promoted to top dog.
Since his initiation in March this year, Luke has championed the necessity for fresh, local and seasonal produce, citing on his menus that “we are just the middlemen for our world class ingredients.”
Seeing that MasterChef: The Professionals winner, Anton and Michelin awarded The Treby Arms seemed to go pretty much hand in hand, you may ask yourself, who is this Luke Fearon and what’s he done with the place? Well, Natasha Heard went along to find out who the new kid on the block is…
So Luke, tell us a little bit about yourself career wise?
I’m a local chef really, having spent most of my professional career in the Southwest. I started off in a country pub outside Totnes and have moved around some of the regions best restaurants for the last 11 years. When the opportunity to join the team at the Treby came up, as development chef in a Michelin starred restaurant, I jumped at the chance. It was a challenging role for a young chef but I loved every minute. Now I’m here, one year down the line and I’m running the show.
What/who were/are your main influences for seeking out a career in this renowned tough industry?
To be honest, I kind of fell into this. Its funny really but not many people in hospitality set out to pursue it as a career. I don’t feel like its given the kind of merit it deserves for such a rewarding profession. I suppose early on I had so many ranging influences with regards to food but now I have developed my own style I don’t really get the same influences from people. I have a strong appreciation of certain chefs and I have strong feelings towards some great plates of food but now I get inspired by the produce. The Love a producer has put into their product is what drives me and the team every day.
You’ve been at The Treby Arms for a year now but how has it been at the helm for the last few months?
Tough. It’s a big operation full of young and passionate individuals, it takes a lot of drive to keep everything on track and moving forward. We have a fantastic and talented team at work and my partner is a rock, she must be sick of hearing about all of my little niggles but every day is another chance to provide a better experience for our customers. We have made huge steps already in turning ourselves into something new, whilst always maintaining our very high standard, so that gives us great comfort for the next few months.
What changes have you made and how are you and will you be putting your stamp on the place?
As a team we have made so many little changes, the food is kind of one small part of those. We have now closed on a Monday and Tuesday. I guess this is the biggest, and in my opinion the best change we have made. I have a very happy, positive and focused team at work now. Everybody is well rested and passionate about providing the best customer experience we can. It wasn’t an easy business decision to make but on a human level, we are reaping the rewards already. As far as putting a stamp on the Treby… I’m not really sure as a chef it’s my right, the pub has been here much longer than me. I want to keep up the tradition of serving Michelin starred cuisine but other than that I would like chefs to remember their time in my kitchen fondly and customers to have created memories in my restaurant.
Do you have a favourite time of year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?
I don’t have a favorite season but I do relish the challenge of creating dishes with ingredients when the harvest isn’t so bountiful. Lots of people ask me what is your favorite dish or ingredient. I find it so difficult. I don’t have any, or I should say I don’t have any one. I consider cooking to be a craft and part of that is that we shouldn’t rely on churning out the same plates of food season after season but we should find new and interesting ways to work with an ingredient or influence. That’s what keeps it interesting for me.
How do you work to ensure that the restaurant retains its Michelin Star year on year?
Last year was a tough one for me, I had to quickly adapt to the style of the restaurant and its demands. Being part of a team that maintained a ‘star’ felt good but this year there is potential for it to feel really great. We have all of the key players in still in place from last year and Day in Day out we have the same team on the stove and in the kitchen. I know a lot about my chefs both in and out of work and we get the best out of each other. Being in the kitchen all of the time nothing leaves that kitchen that I am not personally happy with and if we happen to be cooking what Michelin like then that’s brilliant but if not, as a team we will move on quickly because we are loving our food right now.
Do you have a signature dish?
No signature dish I’m afraid. I have signature ingredients that will always be on my menu but never in the same guise.
The popularity of televised cooking competitions doesn’t seem to be slowing, do you ever consider raising yours and the restaurant’s profile by taking part in any?
I’m not sure that television competitions are for me. I mean ill never say never but I believe in what we are doing and I’m not sure a competition would be the right way to broaden our message.