Elliot Hill, executive chef at the chester grosvenor on why to visit in autumn

arkle dishes (credit peter lowbridge photography) (2)

Elliot Hill, executive chef at The Chester Grosvenor, on the honour of working at the iconic institution and why autumn is an exciting time to eat there

elliot hill appointed as executive chef for the chester grosvenor

Were you surrounded by good cooking throughout your childhood?

Growing up, I was very fortunate to have two parents who could both cook, so I have some very fond memories of cooking with the humblest ingredients, which I always try to showcase in both of The Chester Grosvenor’s restaurants. My dad particularly liked to use a lot of fats and butters, and loved making slow cooked stews and chillies. In this respect, I was very fortunate to have a culinary passion from both parents instilled in me.

When did you first get a taste for cooking yourself?

I actually started in a front-of-house role and every so often would watch a cooking programme or see what the chefs were doing, which would really interest me. I kept nagging and asking the head chef how he cooked certain things and eventually, during a time they were short staffed, he asked if I wanted to work in the kitchen. It was at this point that I realised I had a real passion for cooking.

Was it a career choice for you relatively early, or did you have other career aspirations?

I was actually at university studying philosophy whilst working full time as a chef. When I left, it was my then girlfriend (now wife) who gave me the confidence to make a career out of cooking and apply for a job at a fine dining restaurant.

What was your first job in a kitchen and did you enjoy it from the off?

It was in a small hotel in Wales and although I was eager to learn, my culinary skills needed some work. Despite this, I loved it and once I realised this was what I wanted to spend my career doing, I threw myself at it properly.

During the early stages of your career, what would you say was the best thing you learnt?

The most important thing has always been attitude. Throughout my career I have always looked to keep progressing and learning and I don’t think you get that in most other careers. That whole encompassing feeling is a stiff learning curve for a lot of people, but for me I found it inspiring.

Pre-Arkle, where has your career taken you and what would you say have been the highlights?

Beyond Arkle, the whole Chester Grosvenor in general has been a massive career highlight. When I first moved down to London I committed myself to a couple of months as a stagiaire at some amazing restaurants, and would always recommend that other young chefs do the same. I got to experience highs and lows whilst learning different techniques and styles — and it’s this experience that made me the chef and the person I am today.

How long have you been at The Chester Grosvenor for now and what originally attracted you to the role?

Chester is my hometown and The Chester Grosvenor is an iconic part of its landscape. I feel honoured to be here and, in my lifetime, I’m only the third executive chef to be here which is truly humbling, especially being from the area. It’s also been the biggest challenge of my career and I said in my interview I would walk over hot coals to work here and still mean it. There’s a lot to do, and a lot has suffered during and post-covid, but it gives me immense pride and satisfaction to see what we’ve done, and where we can go!

What’s it like to be based at The Chester Grosvenor?

Of course, like any reputable hospitality business, it can be stressful, but always in a good way. I always say this industry is about highs and lows, and you have to face them both head on. It’s wonderful to a part of such an iconic hotel in a city steeped in so much history, and looking at the hotel’s future projects is very exciting. I feel privileged to be the custodian of the kitchens here and to guide the chefs who have been through the door and who are still yet to come, too. I just hope I can be part of the change I want to see in the industry

What do you aim to offer with the food at Arkle?

arkle dishes credit peter lowbridge photography 4

Quite simply, the very best experience we can offer. The food is a reflection of the team and the seasons, and we always look to celebrate the best local ingredients we can get our hands on. We just want to be the best version of Arkle we can and tirelessly work to improve every aspect we do.

Why have you gone down the route of tasting menus?

One of many reasons is that we spend so long creating dishes in a sequence that we want it to be an experience. We want to make memories and impressions that will last with people for a long time and the best way to do that is by controlling that experience. We offer two menus here, a full tasting menu and a five course, with a choice of mains and desserts.  

How often do these change?

Menu design is a real team effort. With myself, head chef Ray Booker, sous chefs Neil and Will, and Jordan my pastry chef, we’re always looking to improve something and perfect what we do. Ultimately how often dishes change depends on the ingredients and seasonality. We do a lot of preserves nowadays too, so when fruit and vegetables are in season, we will ferment, pickle, souse and dry them to get longevity. We also change dishes based on how it works in the menu and sequence, for example, we could be working on a dish that we think is phenomenal, but if it doesn’t work in the menu, we don’t make space for it.

As we head into autumn, what kind of dishes can we expect?

arkle dish 17 1

Autumn and harvest is a phenomenal season, with some real top-quality ingredients coming to the fore, such as squashes and game. We’ve got a bramble dish on the horizon which is lovely, as well as our two main courses of venison with malted salsify, and pork with squashes which are both fantastic. Also in the works is a play on corn beef hash as well as others that we’ll move when the ingredients are at their best.

Are there dishes you particularly love right now?

My favourite dish on the menu at the moment is actually the pre-dessert and our pastry chef Jordan did a wonderful job with this one. The dish is iced rosehip, olive oil and honey which is full of flavour and texture that just makes you want more.

Where do you source your produce?

If the produce is top-quality, we will always look to source it locally. For instance, we use honey from Haughton at the moment, as well as Handbridge honey, who are small batch producers. We use Field 28 in Daresbury as well, who are very exacting in their herbs and vegetables. We even use a local mill for the flour that makes our bread. However, if it’s local but not the very best, then we don’t tend to use it, and would have to look further afield. The same goes with seafood, we usually get it from Scotland or Cornwall and showcase the best of British.

Ultimately, what experience do you want people to have at Arkle?

arkle room 7

One that will always stand out in someone’s memory. We want the best version of Arkle that will set the benchmark against all our guests’ future experiences in other restaurants. Quite simply, we want to offer a unique experience that you can only get here in Arkle at The Chester Grosvenor.


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