Head chef at The Six in Hampton Court, Jack Scoines attributes his love of food to his foodie upbringing and thoroughly believes in a locally sourced, ethical menu. He previously worked at Number 97 in Surbiton and the three AA Rosette restaurant at The Randolph Hotel in Oxford.
We sat down with Jack to discuss his inspirations, his love of all things nautical and his appreciation of the simple egg.
What inspired you to become a chef?
Growing up in the country I always felt close to the land. As a child I was the kind of boy who would head out with my fishing rod or go hunting for rabbits. I’d then grill the fish on a twig fire or cook a rabbit stew over coals for lunch.
I think the produce I was surrounded by in the Oxford Cotswolds was inspiration to undertaking a career as a chef. There’s lots of rich game, nuts, mushrooms and other forageable goodies, garden grown vegetables and the living from off the land etiquette. As I got older I also enjoyed cosy, dark pubs with roaring fires and the smell of roasting meat and duck fat dripping potatoes. It’s enough to make anyone want to jump in the kitchen.
Mark Kempson works as consultant chef, how has he inspired you as a young chef?
Mark and I are both from the world of fine dining. Mark has inspired me to utilise simpler concepts in my own cooking, he has really emphasised that less is more. I have always been the cook to plate six to seven elements, however, one thing Mark has shown me is that four to five elements, if maximised and calibrated properly, is more than enough.
What’s your signature dish?
I have many, but one dish that always appears on my menu in late summer is duck with cherries.
I use a Devonshire duck, the Creedy Carver, which is sourced from where the area where I was born. We brine the bird, then roast the crown with lots of fresh thyme and a little juniper until golden and crisp. The legs are slow cooked in duck fat, the inner parts are then deboned and stuffed with sage, caramelised onion and garlic and finished with a little pickled cherry chutney. The rest is wrapped in potato string and cooked once more in clarified butter to crisp up.
The plate is then lathered with celeriac puree, scattered with lovely golden girolles and roasted baby onions and is finished off with a generous helping of shaved truffle.
For the sauce we use the bones from the duck to make a rich jus, and then run a load of fresh cherries through it to infuse the flavours. Then we make a syrup from kirsch, brandy and brown sugar, a little Chardonnay vinegar and poach hulled cherries, these are run through the duck sauce and we glaze the whole dish up with it. It’s meaty, rich, creamy, sweet and sour, decadent, yet, so light. It will always be one of my favourites.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
The most important part is who am I cooking for? It doesn’t matter how good your sushi is if your customers want curry. So, for me this is always the most important consideration. Following that is sourcing and sustainability and keeping things seasonal.
What would you do if you weren’t a chef?
If I wasn’t a chef I would do something at sea, I’d be in the navy or a fisherman. As much as I love the countryside I will always have an obsession with all things nautical, marine life and coastal places.
What is your favourite dish to cook at home?
I cook pasta at home – it’s fast, versatile, delicious and can be as clean or as dirty as you wish to make it. Chefs rarely have time to cook at home and it can all be done in no more than two pans in the space of ten minutes.
What is your favourite ingredient?
It’s never ever as simple as that – it’s like asking a pianist what his favourite musical note would be. Much in the same way as an orchestra would be worthless if the focal point was only one instrument. All ingredients help each other out to harmonise and that’s what creates good eating.
To re-phrase it – my most appreciated ingredient would be the humble egg as you couldn’t do 75% of anything without them but again this doesn’t make it a favourite.
When are you happiest?
I am happiest in a countryside inn, eating a beef pie and mash with a glass of scotch and good company. I can also be happiest sat on a white sand beach with a grilled sole on the bone with a glass of Riesling and good company.
Can you tell us more about the cuisine at Six?
The food at the Six Restaurant is the best combination of pub classics and the fine dining world. Mark and I have developed classic dishes to amplify their heritage and maximise the dining experience.
I, myself, am very proud of our steak and ale pies, our mash potato and gravies, our rare-bred meat Sunday roasts and our fish and chips are both particularly good. Our burger is worth noting, it features specially sourced cheese, a delicately made pair of relishes and well sourced tender flavoursome cuts of beef for the burger patty itself.
We offer, alongside classic British fare rare-breed free range pork, the finest aged Dexter Beef and free range Devonshire Duck. The freshest fish from day-boats is couriered up to us here in Hampton the same day. A selection of artisan English charcuterie, all handmade in the country by independent makers and artisan cheeses from independent dairies from all over the nation, is also on offer.