Firstly, congratulations on the new role, what do you love the most about The Grand, York?
Thank you – I’m very excited about this new chapter in my career. The Grand Hotel has a lot to offer and the people who work at the hotel are amazing. As I have progressed through my career, I have come to realise that it is the people who make the place.
I love the history of the hotel – there are so many stories! I also really love the city of York and everything that there is to discover within reach of the hotel; there truly is something for everyone.
From a young age, I was always behind my Granny and Mother in the kitchen. We all loved to entertain and cook.
As a child, I wanted to be a pilot or an engineer but at 16 I did a summer job in the kitchen and loved it. I did half a day in pilot training and decided it wasn’t me, so I went back to the kitchen. I never looked back.
I learnt to cook in Malta before travelling the world for 4.5 years discovering different cooking styles and tasting all the flavours of the world, including spending time in New York. I then decided to go back to my roots and went home to Malta.
Before moving to York, I worked in a successful restaurant in Malta for 21 years. Gaining a Michelin Star at this restaurant is one of my greatest career achievements.
How would you define your cooking style?
Simplistic. For me, the important thing is always freshness. I like to use local ingredients as keeping mileage low is very important to both me and The Grand in general. I also always try and use the whole product to reduce waste but also maximise flavour!
When developing my dishes, I often take influence from my travels. In particular, I love to use Mediterranean produce.
What are the plans for the menu at The Grand?
Since I started my role, we have already made a few changes to the menu to reflect my cooking style.
As much as possible, we would like to continue to focus on using seasonal produce from regional producers. For example, strawberries from Annabel’s Strawberry Farm are delicious so, when they are in season, we always want to utilise them in our dishes.
We will also continue to adapt the menu at least three to four times a year, to respect the change of season.
Are there any dishes you are already planning?
Yes! I am planning to add a Beef Wellington to the menu, but made the traditional way. It will be for two people to share, using local produce from the Yorkshire area. There are many quality suppliers in the city of York, and surrounding areas, that we always try and build in to every meal.
In the winter, I also plan to introduce more dishes which feature game meat to the menu and, of course, lots of warm, wintery dishes that feel like Christmas!
Talk us through your process of creating a new dish
Firstly, seasonality and the location need to be taken into consideration. For example, I tend to create lighter dishes in the summer, especially in a warm climate, and ensure I use products that are in season.
Then, I move on to thinking about the textures of the dish and how they will work together. For example, I will think about what can add crispiness to the dish and what can add a smooth touch.
Finally, I then start to explore the seasoning and think about the flavour. For example, how to add sweetness orsmokiness to the dish, and the correct flavours to use.
What is the cuisine focus at The Grand, and will local produce be used at all?
I enjoy creating classic recipes which have a modern twist so expect to see lots more of this. For example, currently on The Rise menu is a delicious Shepherd’s Pie which uses pulled lamb, instead of minced.
Local produce is very important. It is not enough for us to just mention Yorkshire, we believe in ensuring that we build close relationships with local farmers and producers. This is important as we like to be able to ask our producers questions. For example, we like to know what the produce is feeding on as this alters the flavour and therefore our pairings.
What would be one piece of advice you would give to anyone who wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
Make sure you love working in the kitchen. It is not like any other job, I believe you need to truly love it to have a successful career.
Be eager to learn. Ask questions and absorb different cooking techniques before finding your own unique style.
Have fun! Keep a lively atmosphere in the kitchen – I always have music playing when I am in the kitchen.
Tell us why we should make sure The Grand, York is on our must visit lists?
The Grand is an iconic hotel destination which is a must-visit in my eyes. The hotel combines contemporary luxury and timeless elegance to truly create a 5* experience.
The food offering is also outstanding across the board from Legacy which offers a modern British and Yorkshire-inspired tasting menu in an iconic setting to The Rise which offers modern, simple cuisine and utilises the highest quality, local produce.