Head Chef, Ian Swainson

Cooking Michelin-starred cuisine for over 15 years Chef Ian Swainson joins us with a wealth of experience from award-winning restaurants throughout the UK. With names such as La Becasse, L'ortolan and the Samling on his resume you know Ian takes cooking seriously and performs at a very high level.

The Pass

Ian first became interested in cooking during a work placement in a local hotel kitchen during his last year at school.   He discovered the 9 to 5 was not going to be for him and a desire to work with his hands and be creative ignited.  Work experience led to a summer job which in turn led to catering college.  Encouraged by a lecture to travel to France for his practical course work Ian found himself working in the kitchen of a 1 Michelin star restaurant; he never looked back. Returning to gain further cookery qualification Ian soon returned to France on another placement, this time working in a 2 star kitchen. 

Having decided to aim for and develop his career at the highest level in the industry, Ian’s first full time job was at 3 star Chez Nico, 90 Park Lane. Striving for excellence became a theme throughout Ian’s career development.   A position at the world renowned hotel Chewton Glen then followed where Ian met Chef Alan Murchison who’s restaurants he continued to work at over the next few years.  During his years working at L’ortolan and La Becasse Ian met Will Holland who became a significant influence over his learning, proving a welcomed mentor.  They worked together for over 7 years as Ian moved up through the brigade to become Will’s Sous chef.  Looking to take the next step Ian moved to Seaham Hall as Head Chef gaining valuable experience.  He returned to L’ortolan as Head Chef working alongside Chef Nic Chappelle. The opportunity arose to move once more when he took an role at the Samling gaining his own Michelin star at this time. After 3 years new pastures were calling and Ian joined us here at South Lodge heading up The Pass. 

When speaking of inspiration Ian sites surrealist art, artists and sculpture together with a few cutting edge chefs who themselves are often viewed as more than great cooks. Leafing through books featuring Dali, Margritte or Ernst more often than food, ingredients and recipes. ‘The pictures they were producing 50, 60, 70 years ago still seems futuristic and look new and fresh today. This style has not moved on.’  He listens to other chefs who have similar aspirations, who look to grab our attention - Massimo Bottura, Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy;  Segio Herman, The Jane, Antwerp; and Quique Dacosta, Valencia, Spain    

‘I try to be colourful, I like using big colours and big flavour, to be quite pure and direct.  Not overcomplicated. Not too many ingredients on the plate, they just have to be the very best product I can buy. Sourcing the best is a priority.’ 

Ian uses ingredients he describes as ‘interesting’ or ‘unusual’, or produce that is perhaps 'out of fashion', items that he can play with.  ‘People are often put off things such as whelks or octopus but for all the wrong reasons, because of what they look like, or how they have been cooked or served in the past, but actually it is all about the taste so I present them in a completely different way that looks beautiful on the plate. Cooked really well. I like to be playful with the serving suggestions, to be fun and for the guest to be interested in the whole experience. The dish as a whole being more than the individual ingredients. 

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