« Desert Island Discs

Clare Smyth, chef

2022-08-27 | 🔗
Clare Smyth is a highly acclaimed chef and is the first British woman to win the coveted three Michelin stars for her work. She opened her London restaurant, Core, in 2017, and before that she ran Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, which also held three Michelin stars. Clare was born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and grew up on a farm, where her love of simple ingredients was nurtured. The youngest of three children, she discovered a passion for cooking and decided to make it her career from an early age. She left home at 16, moving to England to take a catering course at a college in Portsmouth. Her ambition was to work with the finest chefs, and after completing her course and apprenticeship, she went on to cook in some of the most acclaimed kitchens in the world, including Le Louis XV under Alain Ducasse in Monaco. She returned to London to work in Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, at the invitation of the proprietor, and became the first British woman to run a three Michelin-starred kitchen. Her many awards include the title of the World's Best Female Chef in 2018, and she received an MBE for services to the hospitality industry in 2013. She also found herself in the spotlight in 2018 as the caterer for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. She lives in London with her husband. DISC ONE: Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses DISC TWO: Zombie by The Cranberries DISC THREE: Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis DISC FOUR: Common People by Pulp DISC FIVE: Set Fire to the Rain by Adele DISC SIX: Maria by Blondie DISC SEVEN: Brass in Pocket by Pretenders DISC EIGHT: Circle of Life by Carmen Twillie and Lebo M. BOOK CHOICE: The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien LUXURY ITEM: A chef’s knife CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Circle of Life by Carmen Twillie and Lebo M. Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Sarah Taylor
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Previously sounds music radio broadcasts, hello, I'm lorna then, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guest to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island and for right reasons the me it is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. I. the. My castaway this week is the chef and rest return class myth, she's, cooked her way,
Where the world, in some of the most famous and most famously demanding kitchens on the planet, earning her place at the cutting edge of british gastronomy, only for british born chefs currently hold three michelin stars and she's. The first, and only british woman too when this accolades she left home at sixteen to learn the trade she's turned into an art form working everywhere from into Monte, carlo. She created a royal wedding reception along the way below the cuisine that kindled her passion for food in the first place is altogether eartha. She grew up on the family farm in county antrim. And still enjoys the honest, fair she learned to love in childhood. She says I love humbled ingredients. I love challenge if someone saying well, let's just an onion and then making something spectacular from that onion directing the maximum amount of flavour. You dont have to work hard to get a lobster. Today's taste class myth welcome today's island discs. Thank you good to be here so close. We ve heard you
you were famous among foods for transforming humble ingredients into something truly extraordinary, elevating simple, fair. As we heard at potatoes carrots, they almost become these works of art in your hands. One of your signature dishes is potato and role. Where did the inspiration for that particular recipe? Come from I grew up on a farm eating potatoes every day in ireland and me family, my aunt and uncle potato farmers, and I and digging potatoes in a field, and it was by the ocean and the soil with fake and black and the smell of the ocean and that really should have penetrated the soil was mineralogy of the seaweed, and that reminds me of home. That day should the humbleness of eating potatoes every day is cooked in butter, and now we would grow up just eating literally every mail, but take days, butter, salt and pepper. So they did.
if the sea weed and then the row on the top. We chose herring and trout row because it is more texture than caviar. People would know that you know, there's a famous day shift jacket, NATO's caviar, Jacko nasa's, you still love, but this is asleep more humble version, overt using trout and herring roe and that texture of the trap road gives a pop and the waxy potato. It makes sense that that the flavors that take you back to your childhood, those kind of comfort foods should inspire you. But where else do you find inspiration? You know you ve been guided by many that rates along the way and it must be difficult to come up with something true He knew the more you know about food, the more you know how much has been done on the end of one thousand cookbooks in your collection at home. I'd love to take inspiration from the simplest in the humblest things I think, of a life of cooking luxury, ingredients in three missions: Dodd, restaurants, back to me was kind of second nature, and I really wanted to challenge myself and I loved it that challenge. I love to take the most humble
Simple thing: that's easily growing, sustainable and turn it into something that is in a worthy of it? three Michelin starred restaurant to serve. Do you have music playing in the kitchen while you woke not in the kitchen. The kitchen is for me: I'm com and quiet, and I like great silence in the kitchen, not even any one like banging a spoon or putting a pan down. Everything must be done very quietly because it sir focus calm, and I think that it can become very stressful if it's loud. So I think most people don't expect that from kitchens, but it's actually very a quiet place. I read a quote from me that really made me laugh, am all at banging and shouting that you hear about was quite browser. I am what about people saying kind of yes chef de. Do any that guess they do, commissioner, patients k, but it is literally limited to the only words I need to speak one about the music on the restaurant floor, who chooses that may remember working on the music irrational. ramsay and we would like was nineteen forty
jazz it. No one will you recognize. You signal play this in the background and it didn't mean anything, and so I thought if I can serve potato in a fine, dining restaurant. Why not play the music the aisles to challenge that convention and just be myself. So I worked on the play list. It was another thing that kind of shock people a little bit in the beginning. You know there's some people that love at some people that hate it most people love it won't speaking uneasy Letty your first disk day? What's he gonna be sweet child of mind of guns and rises said this song is very much from the restaurant. This is probably the one it sticks out the most I remember when we opened And- and it would come on, the guests were like really is this a mistake is someone playing the wrong thing and it's nope absolutely not, but it's the kind of tune that, when it comes on you've, got to start tapping foot I'm going to do a guitar along
but my foot might help as well. It's got guns roses and sweet child of mine so clashed with. He grew up on a farm in county antrim northern islands when you think back to the tastes of your childhood. What do you remember? I grew up eating quite rustic food. I often see juice along with potatoes, obviously irish, jew 'em things that were braised overnight in soups with pearl barley and things like that in them that slow cooked
she's that my mom would put on and leave it cooking over night. See you wake up in the morning is wonderful smell and the house eminence haughty and filling and delicious food and bakings soda bread and wheat and bread. It all sounds very nurturing. Is that what food represented to you yeah and you know growing up on a farm? We would cook everything. So all the parts of the animals and people needed to eat. Well, because it was hard work in asia that people working on the farm would need good healthy, hearty meals and we never had anything that was we bought in a candle with it was everything was cooked, fresh you're, the youngest of three, Tell me about your place in the sibling dynamics, and I was three for you:
younger than the others. So my brother and sister were like ten day short of a year apart and they were all through school and I'd wait for them to come home, so it was quite lonely missing them. I grew up with that competitive spirit. I guess against them, particularly with my brother. We both used to horse ride and we would compete against each other and because he was four and a half years older than me. It made me quite good, and I think maybe that's where a of my competitive spirit comes from and your father, william he's a horse train a right as well as farming. It had show jumping horses and it was a big part of my growing up, and it was something that I probably would have gone into professionally. If I hadn't found cooking is a passion, but we used to have competition horses and I would have two at a time growing up two horses that at were
actually you competing and it was quite low work. So this would have been the nineties oversee content, trim. Northern ireland. How aware will you about the backdrop politically in the country ass? You were a little girl in and go into a teens. I didn't know any different. It was just normal for me, so police stations being covered and bob Looking like prisons, you know seeing soldiers times on the streets with guns, police officers being armed. I didn't know any difference and it wasn't really until I moved to england, I realized it that probably wasn't normal. I do remember a few things happening, but I was lucky that I was in the countryside. You didn't feel directly connected to it. I didn't feel- connected to at all. It was just something that happened in the background of my life. I would see. Sometimes you know things would happen, there would be a bomb that would blow up our local. Town centre. One of my teachers was place. Many had one arm because had been blown up in a bomb
again. I never knew any different. Sages, didn't question, didn't question it and it wasn't. Until I got a little bit oda till I became a blip more politically aware and understood a bit more what it was about, business you didn't know you from northern ireland might not have been able to place your accent. Did you grow up with straw northern irish accent, and if so, when did that start to shift because you ve been living in england for a long time now I moved when Sixteen I went to college and I think I literally lost my accent within two to three weeks. I remember my mom pick up a phone and saying you just lost your accent. I think part of it was on purpose. Because I wanted to fit in and not strong. Northern irish accent was only sixteen years old no one that many women in kitchens anyway, you know was already you stood out already dal and I just wanted to desperately fit in and just work, and I think you know is pot deliberate, that I I lost the accent quite quickly or
of seville vs? It then planets is that your second choice today will have you gone full? Am I so some be by cranberries. I think this is me growing up in than island, in getting into my teens and and starting to be a little bit more. lastly aware and aware of the situation around me? This was a massive here, obviously globally, and it was really when I started to get into music for the first time on my own music. Now that was back when you ain't ninety four. Ninety five
the cranberries and zombie so classmates. Let's talk about you, I'm at school. What kind of student where you terrible terrible scene? you known as being an incredibly disciplined, meticulous, driven at a shafts of those qualities not evident in you is a schoolgirl niger,
I just would rather do anything than go to school, this port side of it on the outside of it loved it, but I would just rather done anything then sat through a french lesson for somebody I just didn't like the authority in school, but funny that I work for some pray in highly regarded delay kitchens, but it just didn't appeal to me- am at all. I did. Okay, in the end, I came out with good grades and I could have gone into in a management course at college and stuff like that, but I didn't want to I just wanted to cook. I just wanted to be a chef. I want to see the most basic qualification, so I could get it done as quick. We as possible and I could get into the kitchen, so new knew an incredibly young age. What you wanted to do. I was very lucky in a very headstrong and single minded and something always white lucky to find when I was younger, something I really
what he wanted to do- and I didn't have anything in my head saying: oh what about this? What about he didn't have doubts. You just go for it cause you, you have nothing holding you back and what about your drive, because that is famous among, the teams that you've worked with and in the industry, you're known for your laser sharp focus, your ability to work very long hours. I think your average work days still nine m to midnight. Did you pick them up from your added from william entering I think, working on a farm definitely gave me a good work ethic. Three hundred sixty five days a year, it's quite often all night as well, when this lambing sheep waking up every hour to check on sheep lambing things like that, so it was nonstop. He just did whatever needed to be done, but I've always been surrounded by good people that were always very driven as well, and it's a competitive world. Let's have some music for now
This number three. What have you got? This is oasis, don't look back and anger the sound of my youth school oasis, but I've been very lucky in my life and am one particular event I could fall was a dinner quite small dinner for about forty people and no gallagher was play atta, and he was just playing a few changes at this and I was cooking and I remember turning up and he was there playing this, and I was thinking my god. He's turned up before me to just hear him singing in the voice in the room was just incredible. Such a pleasure,
the thesis and don't look back in anger. So let's go back to what your first steps into becoming a chef. You left home at just sixteen and went to catering college at highbury in portsmouth, Sir very young age, to leave home in a big move to make. How did your parents feel about it? They weren't that keen on it, to say the least, but I had a
we actually had figured of LAO. I had gotten a friendship and I was working four days a week and going to college one day a week. My whole goal was to be in the kitchen as much as I could and to get that college finished as quickly as possible and worth king where I was working. I was learning so much more real life environment than being college. So did you presented to your parents as a fait accompli like going next week and- and this is what I'm gonna be doing- yeah pretty much yeah. How did they react? They would often tried to convince me to come back no or whatever, but I'd already made that choice, and that was what I was doing so your extremely driven inspired that who we all coloring heroes growing up. I knew that I needed to move to england, turkey, myself, a real chance of working with the best people and I bought a cookbook when I was fifteen and it was it really caught my eye because of the front cover of the book, and it was anton monuments, cuisine, ALA, carte and add a black cover widow
white hexagonal bow with a red soup in it that just blew my mine and I started to read, and he was the executive chef at the dorchester hotel and it was incredibly glamorous and I was just smitten, then that was it I was. The appeal was captured your imagination, the way things looked with that crisp, whites, the tall white hat. I began to read thing I could get my hands on. I just knew that that was it for me and a new there's, nothing that northern ireland did. You know what it would taste what you are looking at, always it just the magic of the weight looked. It was really the magic Wait looked in this profession in korea that I saw it cereal that would read everything, and I was obsessed by an and it was light people being obsessed by Iraq. Bans on you everything about everything I could read. That was that single mindedness that took me to college and my goal was actually to get that finished, get the qualify and move to london as soon as possible. You were just as
in a jahren really fending for yourself, how did you cope with all of their life admin that comes with that? You know finding money for bed and board making sure he had something to eat in the cupboard and I moved to london to start with I've. Still only seventeen had turned eighteen I'd finnish college and it was incredibly tough. No living in a bed sets an extract from a fridge from my bed and that's when I was taught to work more serfs. staying seventy nowadays we're lucky enough. We got fed at work and things like that, but it was incredibly tough and those were the days that public not much time to think about it, but we were all in the same boat and it's just what you did. That's have you next disk clare, what's gonna be common people by Paul and this does reminds me of my time when I left time and I'm living in a bed sets, and it was tough times it wasn't a lot of money. He said the cockroaches climbing the wall, but it was that, sir, if very british spirit that sort of teenage angst and
wanting to just get on with things pope and common people. So clear Psmith after leaving college, you spent seven years working in some of the very best restaurants in the world, you even than french- to join alan de cassis team at we cannot in monte, carlo, how did someone who's
restless in the classroom, go back and to grips with a whole new language, half minutes as ironic, isn't it. I always had my sites and working for the best in the world. As I thought, if I work for the best shifts in the world, then I've got a chance of making it learned from the mosses, and so after spending three and a half years working with golden ramsay, initially in his kitchen louis, ans to me was like well, it's one of the most iconic restaurants in the world. Back then it had gold cutlery, gold teapots. It was just incredible. It was the most luxurious restaurant in the world and probably still is today a Monte carlo square. And by the prince of monaco analogy caspian when the greatest s in history. That was my dream. So how did you do it and how long did it take? I went to work as a private chef in south france for a few months to earn enough to pay for schools- I went into a french, go for a month intensively. Find a euro every thomas, broken english word, but myself through the intensive course to get the job at the weekend and then I can t
you don t know. I spent a couple of years working there before getting the gray option should come back as hedge f rational ramsay, which at that time was the only three mission star restaurant in london- was making not switch from this that had been your dream to go back to london to work with him was uneasy choice to make it was a difficult ones. Alan jackass wasn't very happy about it. To be honest because, having previously worked for gordon, he thought, while she just come for just to take what she could and go buy it wasn't the case. It was the fact that this opportunity came up to be a hedge chef Michelin, star restaurant, which changed my life. The opportunity to do that was incredible, and I was the first woman to run a three mission star trump. Then, in its really where I start to get a lot of recognition, but it was a lot of pressure it it's very, very tough restaurants. It was famous both the most famous restaurant in the world was twenty, eight years old. When I took over as the head chef- and I was the first woman to do it and so
I was always petrified of being the first woman to loose remission of stars, and it was kind of me, five my fee is, is a partner, a manager for the first time. in your head. Jeff heading up a restaurant that was so famous that if I slipped up it would have been a lever of a newspaper. It was a huge amount of pressure. I remember when I took over gordon announced the position, and it was all over the the pay isn't going to mean a god. You got more pressing. The prime minister today the sun newspaper went to my parents house, and it was gordon, was augustine be famous at that. Time was still is obvious, but it was really when he started to become so globally famous the restaurant was so in the limelight and now I was thrust into that as the head chef as well, and after a few years of maintaining the flemish list, He started going to my own shoes and then starts to ballot Brady, my own style, and what's that like much more,
quiet, and remember gordon, coming and feeling really unnerved by how quiet the kitchen? I don't even know what's going on in here anymore. That's ten art, into the music. Now back to your discs, this is your fifth choice, so this is set fire to the rang by adele and adele Is someone I'd my greatly she's one of my favorite artists and I've been very lucky to get for several occasions, but I think the most coolly thing was we got our embassies together at buckingham palace, and this set fire to the range of nice to listen to going to work every day when it came out- and I just absolutely love it, but she real idol of mine and I think, going through our lives. I just can't wait to grow old, listening to adele and see what she does in the future
Adele and set fire to the rain classmate. After me, two years running gordon Ramsay's restaurant at three star level in twenty. Sixteen, you left to set up your own place, call in london or it's a huge financial undertaking and came along with the course at a colander challenge to reach three may and start again did it feel like a risk at the time yeah I'm in it was a huge risk. I had literally come from running the most high pressure
restaurant in the world, where we had three misha start. We maximize all of the guy so is doing incredibly well, and then it was a kick start. Nothing, it wasn't a pool budget, but it was compared to what I was coming from. It was a small budget to start up and set up that restaurant say I had to write a business plan. We'll get the site, so I was literally going from hero to zero, am and starting out at the basics again, but we just had to dig deep and do everything we could to pull out all the stops to get open and it was horrible. I remember in a waiter tripping down the steps in the restaurant and smashing in the glass window with flights of food and food. You sliding down the glass window in front the kitchen on the opening I and it was just awful, but I had arrived good team around me and that I knew that we would come through. Take us a little bit to get our feet but then send we start escaped,
It is a bit more into an about three months. Well, you know, have three michelin stars and opened his sister restaurants in sydney also produced a cookbook that has recipes for some of We're award winning dishes. It is exquisitely beautiful, but I wonder how easy it's going to be for home cook to get to grips with your recipes if a very, very king, sometimes I am surprised or some people do cook them at home. But, however, it's full of little recipes that are really useful, be addressing a pastry. At all it kind of pays in their choux pastry things that are achievable and what about? If your competitors get their paws on it, Clara many worried broke, giving away your trade secrets here. She knows we work in this world, it's just ever changing and ever moving and anyone can take I think from anywhere now clove go to ask about pricing you're, obviously, at the luxury end of the market, it costs around one hundred and eighty five pounds for a tasting menu at core and, as you know, the country's current in the cost of living crisis jabba have any
arms about the cost of fine dining. You know no, so we have fifty four seats and we have fifty seven members of staff So to give you an idea of the costs that go into running a fine, dining restaurant undazed members of staff just on any they all the very best in the industry- and ingredients we use a phenomenon. We pay a fair price for them, so in a way value for money. The fine dining in britain is actually some of the best in the world. You would easily pay double in france to dine in a three michelin, starred restaurant. Let's have some more music claire. This is sixth choice for you today. What have you gone full and why this is maria blondie and The love listen to this when I'm going to work- and this is like my one of my on chains, if I ever win an award- and it is on the on the playlists of the restaurant as well,
lonely and maria classmates in May twenty eighteen, you had the booking of a lifetime, so you are asked to cook for the wedding reception of prince Harry and markel at windsor. Did it come about mega news, a big thirty as his hairy actually and she had come to reach at core with a friend? And
then you know the engagement go, announce any rethink anything over and then the cool came and corby in a restaurant with couldn't cater for that. So we had to start to find someone would work with Anton muslim men was the official royal kate you had catered for. why few role engagements and they said to me- you can choose, have one you don't have to work with with anton madman, and I said now you don't instant. I wonder what then is one muslim? This is the guy who uses your teenage hero yet the first book I bought the the person's book that inspired me to become a chef and to do it I did, and so I was that no, you don't understand yet. I want to work with Anton what was on the menu they selected some the dishes from coal, but then we also did a little version of their roast chicken as well for their main course. So this is the ultimate full circle moment. What did it feel like too to be in the kitchen with him to be standing together?
Working just have a nominal I'm in the minute he he found out. He did these research about all of my fatal addition dishes and I had a meeting with him and in easily seventies and What a legend- and you know when you meet you? U: heroes, They end up being what you it we wish they would be in he. He wants a true gentlemen too. Professional and I remember on the on the day. You know six aim in the morning and it was beautiful bright sunny day and I was had arrived in the car park in what was a bit of a joke. It was thought. I was one of the royal come occurs. It my flight range, moreover, and I was waiting in the car park in Anton pulled in his jaguar uri too, with his bow tie on, and I just standing next to him and six m in the morning just what a special day it was like formula You know the training in the preparation to make sure that everything went absolutely the minute timing, everything making sure that we we got it on the neo nazis
Hearing your team, everybody had to kind of surrender their phones. All that kind of thing it was absent, lee. No, we just didn't know what was going on that during the whole day, we were kind of windsor- we had no idea about what was going on around us. I'm only what We were doing in our little part in it. It's tenth your seventh piece of music claire. What have you gone for and why you taken it with you to the island, so this is brass in pocket by the pretenders are massive pretty high van and this gene reminds me gig successful and I have got a little bit brass in my pocket and I was lucky enough to hear her play this live in sheep, he played it for me and you know she's a vague, and so we had to hide with me everywhere. Was she
such a legend she's in her seventies. She was on stage with fleetwood mac the night before, and I couldn't believe my luck when I turned up and she was there- and he was warming up in at us like gods, can't believe this as any chance you're going to play brass in pocket, she's like yeah. Of course, I love live music and it's such a privilege to be able to see artists do what they do gonna turn shall come to mind. a the pretenders and brass in pockets, so glad the covert nine,
in pandemic and the subsequent locked had a devastating effect on on business in vain hospitality, in particular, was severely impacted as well. Oh, no, an employer. How did you manage that situation that were in a well coming out of? No, they member look myself in the mirror in the mornings, when the first hit and thinking arrest, not even going to exist what more can I do. I have enough money to be able to pay off the bank loans for the business, and then what am I gonna? Do? We were Like everyone, the industry, he absolutely If, on your knees at that stage, knowing? What the future would be in college, I need two and a half years old. The business at that stage also felt pretty useless at that time, because we ll just closed in and not doing, anything would capable people in vienna, it jason will serve. Caesar like their work, like round the clock- and I was I We doing, and so we then started tooth
Well, we can cook, so we can cook. So he went back into the kitchen is dusk for charity and we we work for five local charities and we took all the producer or the supplies, couldn't use and turned into Hell. the haughty meals for people and, even to this day, to feel like a wagon beef supply. We will cooking. Why do beef shin and things for, like kids in schools? We were doing six hundred meals out of corn and it was he, I am in ways that we didn't could be to that's. Basically what we did during the first locked out and then we start to while the things when we realise that this was going continue on, and I actually then needed to get some kind of an income because we just wouldn't have survive anymore. We presented himself to do a home delivery service. It's almost time too ass you away now clad before I do. I wonder what would be your last meal before it was a life of campfire food. I would probably go something with
I chicken, if I was saying a luxurious thing, I do love black truffle. Well, one more tune before we send you of to your island claire. What are we gonna hear for last selection today? This is circle of life from the lion king from the soundtrack. I just love the words of the song. And it's really a passion of mine travelling and travelling in africa and going on sorry and I, your husband, south african, hey south african, and I find it one- the places that most connected to find the warmth of the african son holmes myself and the singing in this reminds me very much of that
the circle of life, some by common, twenty and level m from the lion king film send track while the other plenty of time to shit, the wonder of the beauty of nature where you're going next clare, because you are off to your island. Time to send you away I'm going to give you the bible on the complete works of shakespeare. To take with you. You can also take another book. What would you like? Lord of the rings for me, also not a cookbook
nay, lord of the rings, by talking it's just something that I haven't read since I was a kid. That's probably my favorite book and I read all of his works as a child. I love that fantasy and be taken away. You can also looks right in what would you like so boring? For me it would be chefs knife, because most practical thing, you know, allowed a practical. Look though, this is a contradiction in terms. Are that this kind of a luxury? I think, because I think the chefs knife is not just a knife: it's a tool that is a luxury. Okay. So it's the keep going, it's a work of art. It is, and it's something there is a is a beautiful thing that you have for your lifetime. I have had them bespoke the made well on the basis It is an absolute work of art, I'm going to allow it we'd, also of snow, which one of the eight tracks that you share with us today, which you rush to save from the waves. If you had to, I think it would have to be back to circle
life for me, because I can I just find that peace in nature and it puts everything and prospective class myth. Thank you so much for letting a seer your desert island discs. Thank you. The hello. I hope class, happy on her island and using her night to prepare some decent food strictly is an artwork. It's not a practical item. There are more than tat thousand programmes in our archive, which you can listen to class mental until muslim and is in there along with golden rumsey, you can their programmes if you search through BBC sounds all on our own desert island discs website and if you'd like to your wish
discs, Adele or no gallagher took to their islands when they were castaway you'll find their programmes in that gdp manager for today's programme with Sarah Hockley and the producer with Sarah Taylor. Next time my guest will be the musician John legend. I do hope you join us the.
Transcript generated on 2022-08-28.