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Chef Tom Barnes Discusses L'Enclume, Rogan & Co., And Third Michelin Star

By Emily Hourican

Tom Barnes is executive head chef at L’Enclume and Rogan & Co., in Cumbria, awarded a third Michelin star in February, making it the eighth restaurant in the UK – and the first in the North of England – to hold such an accolade. Tom spoke at the recent Food on the Edge conference, and Hospitality Ireland caught up with him to learn more.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in December of 2022.

Tell us about your background – where you grew up, studied, etc.

I grew up in Barrow-inFurness and studied at St Bernard’s Catholic High School. I wasn’t very good at school and couldn’t wait to leave. As soon as I did, I began my apprenticeship in a local kitchen.

What first drew you to food and cooking?

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Cooking cakes with my grandma was my first experience of cooking. I really enjoyed it, and that was where the idea of working in a kitchen came from.

When did you first realise you wanted to do this professionally?

As soon as I started my apprenticeship, I realised this was the job for me. It was the first time in my life I excelled at anything, and I was so excited to go to work each day to learn new things.

What was your first big role?

I had an amazing mentor in Duncan Collinge while I did my apprenticeship, and when I finished, he told me to apply for a job in a Michelin-star kitchen. I landed a job at the Vineyard, at Stockcross, working under John Campbell and Peter Eaton. The restaurant had just won two Michelin stars, and it was my first role in a kitchen of that standard.

What was that like?

Working at the Vineyard was an amazing but very intense experience. There was a large food offering in the hotel, on top of a 90-cover restaurant that operated at a two-star standard, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. There were only 15 of us in the kitchen, which is a small team for a kitchen of that size. I had to learn very quickly to be organised and work fast, but I had a great time, and it helped me to improve my skills very quickly.

Have you been part of an opening team?

The only restaurant opening I have been a part of was when we opened Henrock. It is the latest restaurant we have in the North, housed in the beautiful Linthwaite House Hotel, close to Lake Windermere.

How did you find that?

It was a great experience, though very challenging. The restaurant menu is inspired by the travels of Simon [Rogan] and our team, so it was the first time in a long time I worked with foreign ingredients. The first few months were tough, then the pandemic hit, so it was tough to get any momentum with the lockdowns, but now we have an amazing team up there, and the restaurant is going from strength to strength. Tell us about the Simon Rogan group of restaurants – the ethos, food, service, etc. Our core ethos of farm-to-fork dining sits at the heart of everything we do, encouraging a deeper connection between the food we eat and our environment. Our food focuses on flavour and quality of ingredients, with innovative cooking that brings the best out of every element of the dish. I think our service style reflects those attitudes in many ways – amazing people who work tirelessly every day to create a unique and memorable experience for our guests.

Linthwaite House - exterior at night.

What’s it like to celebrate 20 years?

It’s been a fantastic year of celebrations. Two decades is no mean feat, so we wanted to go all out! We started the year with a one-off menu at Henrock, featuring classic dishes from throughout the years. We created a limited-edition cheese with maker Martin Gott, a commemorative whiskey with the Lakes Distillery, commissioned beautiful bespoke cutlery for L’Enclume, and on our farm we planted 20 new trees in our orchard.

Tell us about getting a third star at L’Enclume.

It was an incredible day when we found out L’Enclume had won three stars. Everyone was quite emotional. I have been on the journey with Simon for 12 years, so it was amazing to see him finally reach his goal, and – personally, for me, being from the North of England and being a part of the team – that it was the North’s first-ever three-star restaurant was very special.

What is the food ethos of L’Enclume?

Cooking that elevates even the humblest ingredients to something spectacular. With the right care, with the balance of umami and acidity, a cabbage dish should be just as memorable, if not more so, than a prime cut of beef.

How does the farm fit with the restaurant?

Every dish starts life at the farm, chatting with head grower John Rowland and tasting what is in peak at any given time of the year. The farm has grown massively since it was first established in 2011 and now provides 80% of the produce we use – not just at L’Enclume, but at all of Simon’s UK restaurants.

Aulis London.

What makes a great restaurant?

Amazing food and great hospitality. I think it’s important not to overcomplicate things – just give people a great time!

What are the changing trends in hospitality – people’s expectations, new elements, etc.?

I believe sustainability is now a huge part of hospitality. Keeping our food miles down, sourcing amazing local produce and minimalising waste, as well as reducing plastic, is becoming more present, which is great to see.

What are the major challenges at the moment?

Staffing has been an issue for the hospitality industry as a whole. We have been very fortunate within the group, Every dish starts life at the farm, chatting with head grower John Rowland and tasting what is in peak at any given time of the year. The farm has grown massively since it was first established in 2011 and now provides 80% of the produce we use – not just at L’Enclume, but at all of Simon’s UK restaurants.

What makes a great restaurant?

Amazing food and great hospitality. I think it’s important not to overcomplicate things – just give people a great time!

What are the changing trends in hospitality – people’s expectations, new elements, etc.?

I believe sustainability is now a huge part of hospitality. Keeping our food miles down, sourcing amazing local and starting the Simon Rogan Academy has been huge in helping us to battle the staff shortages.

Do you think that the pandemic has changed what we look for in hospitality?

I think people are just happy to be able to go out and socialise again. I believe people want to come to a restaurant to have a great time with family and friends, eat amazing food, and be looked after for the evening.

Any other plans on the horizon for the next year or so?

It’s been a jam-packed 2022, celebrating both L’Enclume’s third star and 20 years, but we don’t plan on slowing down. We’ve got lots of really exciting projects in the works for 2023 – I can’t give details, but stay tuned!

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Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
Enjoy a FREE Digital Subscription
Enjoy a FREE Digital Subscription
Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
Enjoy a FREE Digital Subscription