A Man in the Making
Roger Brown recalls the beginning of his career as being a time when “a pint was under a pound, Bono was cool and a kiwi fruit was considered an exotic rarity” – also known as 1985. Trained in Chichester, Brown began working for Richard Thompson as a full-time commis/part-time wannabe rock star. It was here he began to develop his passion for all things food-related, predominantly seafood. Sticking to the south coast of England, he then began working in Sussex where he gained a good reputation running a kitchen alone; skills of independence that would prove very useful later in life. However, his ambition and drive for new experiences never ceased and, in fact, it was this dedication to learning that helped him climb to the rank of head chef of a two-rosette restaurant on the Isle of Skye – his climbing talents would certainly come in handy here! Skye was the ideal location for someone with such a love for the freshest of fresh ingredients and the fact that there was shellfish delivered to the local pier daily only fuelled his excitement to try new recipes.
But with time came new opportunities: Brown moved to Portugal for three years, gaining experience in southern-European cooking while following in the footsteps of his previous boss, the late Effie Kennedy. Upon returning to the UK in 2003 – apparently “just in time for the fifth Harry Potter book” – Roger started consultancy and relief work across Scotland; while this was a lucrative means of income it wasn’t enough to satiate his hunger as it always appeared to be someone else’s vision and someone else’s dream. Hearing these remarks made by Brown, a friend of his suggested they work the ski circuit for a season, little did Roger know that this “season” would last seven years and he’d end up with “a selection of appalling injuries and haircuts, two children and a passion for everything French and Italian”. With home ever calling, he returned, this time basing himself and his family in Derbyshire doing relief and consultancy, but still working his way northward again. Finally, he landed in Oban; a ruggedly beautiful setting to raise children as well as providing the key ingredients Roger had been looking for: fresh and local with a dash of great craic.
He’s Got Style
Although Brown experiments with different techniques and skills gained throughout his worldly travels, his style is always clear; his cooking is always “clean, accurate and unfussy”. In today’s modern age of being a chef, these characteristics can be difficult to come across; dishes are becoming more scientifically technical and classical training isn’t paid much mind to, which of course, is exciting to watch but sometimes simplicity is key to getting a dish just right. To Roger, it is vital to ensure that the individual flavours of each ingredient can be tasted and savoured, yet at the same time important to allow all parts of a dish to connect. The perfect way in which he describes this passion is that “we live amongst the finest fish, game and produce in the world – respect the ingredient”.
With regards to the latest trend on the scene, foraging, our chef is all for it, so long as it doesn’t take him away from his main role. Roger knows that sometimes it is better to enlist the help of others: “I’m well served by great professional suppliers who know what I want. If I’m bounding around the hills in search of foraged mountain thyme then I’m not behind the pass.” This more than explains his dedication.
When asked if he has a favourite ingredient to cook with his response was as follows: “Got to be langoustine, or venison, or Black-Faced lamb, or razor clams, or Mull cheese… Pink Fir Apple potato? No, rowans – yes definitely rowans! Or maybe brambles… I give up! No.” His inability to decide is wholly excusable because, with such a variety of fresh produce on offer, such as the aforementioned, it truly would be impossible to choose. Even the short list of produce here offers a tempting insight into what Brown likes to offer – enticing, isn’t it?
Chef Roger Brown may have been working in the industry for quite some time now, but that doesn’t mean he’s stopped striving to learn and improve. Roger is modest when it comes to his own cooking and doesn’t consider himself to have a signature dish because he is aware that there is always something new to discover or a way to rework a dish. As his inner-rock star would say: “I love remembering and reworking ideas; coda, variation, coda, solo, chorus…” Although he may not have a signature dish, as such, Brown is more than capable of creating a successful dish. The secret to which is that he puts himself in the customer’s mindset asks himself what they’d order and he does this by getting right in amongst them. An opportunity many rarely get but one that Roger does not take for granted, making the most of his interactions with customers, gaining insight first hand.
His culinary plan for Loch Melfort Hotel is much akin to his style of cooking: unfussy yet genuine. Brown wishes to make the Hotel’s food offering accessible to all – whether they’ve travelled from afar or popped in from just around the corner. His desire is to encourage the casual dining experience in the Bistro using more local ingredients and simple concepts, allowing everybody to be able to enjoy the seasons and what they have to offer. Roger’s menus will bring with them straight craft served well with pure knowledge and sympathy for ingredients used. Everyone at Loch Melfort Hotel is enjoying working with our new chef – his dedication to the industry and uplifting sense of humour are welcomed here.