Meet the chef: Sean Melville at Newmarket’s Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa
Sean Melville is Executive Head Chef at the 2AA Rosette Squires restaurant based in Newmarket’s Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa.
The only 4 Red Star hotel in Newmarket, Suffolk, Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa retains the charm and character of a country house yet offers the very best in modern comfort and luxury.
Sean joins the hotel after a long and esteemed career in Central London where he worked for some of the most famous and prestigious hotels in the world, including The Ritz and The Dorchester.
Natasha Heard, food and drink editor at Luxury Lifestyle Magazine, talks to Sean about his culinary background, working abroad and his reasons for moving from the city to the country.
How did your culinary career begin?
I have always enjoyed food, even as a child, I used to practise things at home. When my parents separated I regularly had to make the family evening meals, so it seemed like a logical move. I enrolled on the City and Guilds course at Colchester Institute and the rest is history. I get a huge amount of pleasure seeing what can be created and how it can bring people together and enhance occasions. Food should be a social thing; it is always best enjoyed with others.
What has been you greatest culinary achievement?
This is a tough one to answer – is it teaching someone and seeing them progress from a casual waiter to an Executive Chef, or is it the day I got my first 2AA Rosette Award, watching the inspector eating in the restaurant hoping it was good enough? I have been very lucky in my career so far, cooking for the Queen, Nelson Mandela and many other royals from different countries.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?
One meal that always brings a smile to my face, was a charity dinner at The Dorchester, a F1 sponsored dinner for the NSPCC. The whole occasion was extraordinary, we had somewhere in the region of 70 chefs working on this one event, I was challenged with the organisation and set up of the dinner. It was amazing to be part of, feeding 450 guests some of the most extravagant food for one great cause.
What was it like to work in Bermuda? How was it different to working in a kitchen in the UK?
I look back on Bermuda with very fond memories, it really is a paradise to live and work in. However it is very different to working in the UK, the structure of the kitchens are more a kin to the American line style kitchens. I was lucky to have a real mixture of nationalities within my team – Jamaicans, Swiss, German, Barbadians and Bermudans – each one brought their own culture and perspective into the kitchen. The biggest challenges were motivating the team (let’s face it who wants to work in a hot sweaty kitchen when you can see the beach, sunshine and beers!). The other challenge was to organise deliveries, some items had to come by air, others by boat. If there was bad weather in the area or a hurricane looming, you just didn’t get the deliveries, so you always needed a plan B. This taught me the importance of fostering good relationships with suppliers to try and ensure I was first on the list!
How have different countries/cultures influenced your cooking?
I think everything in life affects us in one way or another. You find that when you immerse yourself in a particular culture it will naturally influence you. The key is to be able to bring flavours and influences together at different times, looking at how one culture uses a technique and seeing how it can be used in other cooking. This is demonstrated through the many fusion styles in food today. With the transportation of produce being so rapid around the world the availability is there to mix and match. This allows people to play and try things that they have seen in other countries, at home!
Do you have a favourite restaurant in the UK?
Easy! = Squires of course.
Did your interest in show jumping influence your move to Bedford Lodge?
I would love to be able to say yes, and keep a straight face, but no it didn’t. It did however make Callum, my son really happy! I came to Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa because of the Hotels charm and understated elegance. I mean, look at the place, it’s beautiful.
You are very passionate about using locally sourced ingredients and teaching your kitchen team about the importance of using local produce, can you tell us more, what activities do you have planned for the new team?
Using local produce is key, since moving here I have met with all the suppliers and have challenged them to organise trips for my team to see how they operate, “field to fork” if you like. We promote the suppliers on our website for this reason; it’s our commitment to using local. The team need to have a full understanding of the challenges and passion our suppliers have to bring them the produce that they have asked for. This respect will come through in what is made and put on the guests’ plate. Currently we are using apples from our own local organic orchard. The closer to nature you can get the better the food is, we don’t need to mess about with it.
Aside from cooking, what do you like to do in your spare time?
What’s spare time? I have two teenage children, one getting ready for A levels and university, while the other is on the run up to GCSEs. They keep us active and busy, I also help with my son’s Rugby Club, as team photographer. We also will try to keep a day for a family meal, when we spend the evening cooking together, catching up on everything in our busy lives. This keeps the focus and brings everyone together. The remaining time, I like to cycle, for those that have seen me, yes lyrca can stretch that far! I find it a great way to relax, try and keep fit and keep the weight slightly under control (or make an attempt anyway!). It’s a great time to think and ideas form as you cruise through the country lanes.
How did you get involved in volunteering as an Ambulance First Responder?
I was walking along the high street and saw an open day, as I’ve been a first aider for years I thought it may be something I could do to give something back to the local community. I really enjoy it; oddly enough I actually find it relaxing, as you forget about everything and just focus on the incident at hand. Working to support our ambulance teams on what is a really tough job feels really rewarding.