Our Chef Director Simon Denton ran a portfolio of five star venues in the home counties and the South of France as a group executive chef, followed by a stint on the South Bank as executive chef at The Swan at The Globe.
In our latest Q&A Simon talks honest food, staying ahead of the food-trend curve and the journey to success.
How has Zafferano developed creatively since you joined the team in 2014?
‘We continue to invest enormous energy bringing our values into everything we do, from our supplier selection process and the produce we use (breeds/farms included!), right through to investing in our team to ensure that the knowledge and inspiration, from conception to delivery, is kept alive.
We continue to invest enormous energy, bringing our values into everything we do
In the development stages of Zafferano’s menus, where do you take inspiration?
‘Such a difficult question to answer; we spend a lot of time and energy researching food concepts and new recipes. With a hugely talented team, most of what we achieve is inspired from within the kitchen and tailored to each and every brief. There’s no doubt that the event scene has become far more competitive – our clients’ food knowledge is so advanced that the demand for the next new thing is greater than ever. We need to ensure we stay ahead of the curve at all times.
What does the term ‘honest’ food mean to you?
‘Simple! It’s born out of experienced chefs who have knowledge, discipline and a genuine passion for the produce they are using. This is coupled with carefully sourcing the best possible ingredients, which have been produced with equal care! These are the simple rules for producing ‘honest’ food.’
In your mind, what sets you apart from the competition?
‘Our team. We have an incredible team who push the boundaries at every opportunity, which I think shines through. There’s an infectious energy within Zafferano, which I think is why our clients buy into us and why we have grown so much over the last couple of years.’
Do you embrace food trends or do you prefer to divine your own path when creating new menu concepts?
‘I think it would be foolish to ignore food trends, especially in our market place where the consumer is spoilt for choice. That said, while I am lucky enough to be able to draw on many channels of information, I prefer to create my own path. After all, there is no point in getting out of bed in the morning if you don’t want to innovate or take risks.’
What frustrates you most about the catering industry, are there any practices you would refine?
‘Commercialisation of the artisan. True artisans produce mind blowing flavours and products. This quality can be compromised when the food industry ‘big boys’ become involved, as a direct result of their quest for something new to engage their audience – too often the lure of lucre and wider-exposure can be irresistible to the modest artisan. Not only does this put the ‘honesty’ of the food at risk, but it also negatively impacts the producer themselves’.
What’s has been your proudest moment/highlight event in your time at Zafferano?
‘Without doubt, the highlight for me has been our company’s journey and the success we continue to enjoy as a business. As I mentioned before, the Zafferano team has invested a huge amount of energy, blood, sweat and tears over the past few years. Whilst there have been some tough and challenging times,
it’s great to see the fruits of all our hard work ripen and grow
What do you see as the creative ‘buzzword’ for 2016?