Behind every great restaurant is of course a great chef and heading up the kitchen at the Four Seasons Hotel London, Park Lane is Executive Chef Romuald Feger. He joined the team at the end of last year with more than 20 years of experience working in some of the finest restaurants in the world such as Hôtel-Restaurant Le Cerf in Marlenheim and The Connaught in London. We caught up with him to talk about mistaking truffles for rubbish, food trends and the pancakes at Farm Girl.
What is your earliest cooking memory?
When I first started my apprenticeship I was on the receiving end of a 2 kilo delivery of something that was covered in soil, I didn’t know what to do with it, so decided to throw it the bin. Later that evening the Owner came to the kitchen to ask if anyone had received the truffles that were driven to us directly from the South of France. We were all bemused and shook our heads. He went on to say that they came un-brushed as they had just been dug up from the ground, that’s when it dawned on me; the bins had already been collected and I had to confess! It would have taken me a year and a half to pay back the cost of the truffles on my starting wage!
Who are the chefs that you look to for inspiration?
I look to the previous generation of French Chefs such as Roger Vergé, Paul Bocuse and Jacques Maximin. They focussed on using seasonal ingredients and local produce something that is extremely relevant today. You can see this influence in my menu’s, for example the sandwiches in our new Journey Through British Summertime Afternoon Tea. I’ve worked with some of the best producers in Britain, many of whom are small family run businesses who focus on growing or sourcing one or two ingredients.
What is your favourite London restaurant and why?
I love to go to Farm Girl Café in Notting Hill for breakfast at the weekends; the owner grew up on a rural farm outside Melbourne and believes in harnessing the best of nutritious local ingredients. It’s a great young crowd and the pancakes with coconut nibs are delicious! At the moment my favourite spot for dinner is Portland, just of New Cavendish St. I went recently and had such a great experience, from the perfectly cooked Welsh Lamb to the Chef taking the time to come and talk us through the food and his produce; it’s definitely somewhere I’d recommend.
What is your number one cooking hack?
Wine, sometimes I even put it in the food.
Do you cook for yourself a lot or do you enjoy a sneaky take-away once in a while?
I always cook for myself, and stay away from fast food. During the week I do the cooking for myself and my girlfriend and love treating friends to a traditional French Sunday lunch at the weekend.
Is there anything you refuse to cook?
I always avoid cooking things that aren’t in season and try to steer away from anything processed or frozen.
What food trends do you predict for the future?
People have started to really care about what they eat and where it came from. When the economy crashed we all realised that we needed to support our local producers rather than sending our money to farms abroad. This took us back to our roots when food couldn’t travel far, what people used to eat was what grew around them. I think it’s opened our eyes to the incredible produce that we have around us.
You have already worked in France, Bora Bora and US – what caused you to come to London?
I wanted to be closer to home. My original plan was to go back to France and I intended to complete the ‘Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France’, a competition in France held every four years. However an opportunity came up here which I couldn’t refuse, I’ve since loved what Britain has to offer and I’m happy to call London my home!
Which dishes do you love to cook?
I never have a set plan for a dish that I want to cook. I get inspired by ingredients that I see in the kitchen or out at markets. Creativity is key!
Being a chef has taken you all over the world, which ingredients do you think Londoners should discover?
It would have to be Tahitian vanilla. It’s simply delicious and for our new afternoon tea I worked with ‘Tea for Two’ to create a bespoke Yorkshire Rhubarb and Tahitian Vanilla Bean Jam. You have to try it!
What can we expect from your new menu?
I’ve sourced the best British products and put them at the forefront of our dishes. The Green Asparagus from Norfolk with Scottish Blue Lobster and Mandarin Gel is a favourite of mine!