Dog friendly Rothay Manor is located in Ambleside in the heart of the English Lake District. Built in 1823 by a wealthy merchant from Liverpool, the country house estate was converted to a hotel in 1936. It is steeped in history, and still retains many Regency features. Guests can indulge in special interest holidays and enjoy afternoon tea or sumptuous food in the 2 AA Rosette restaurant. And what’s more it’s got a new chef – Dan McGeorge.
McGeorge (26), who has been described by the owners of Rothay Manor, Jamie and Jenna Shail as ‘gentle mannered’ with ‘exacting standards,’ has worked at The Bath Priory (3 AA Rosette) and the Lawn’s restaurant in the 4* Thornton Hall Hotel.
In his own words…
Q. So you studied law… what turned you off becoming a lawyer?
I studied law for the wrong reasons and once I realised this I decided to follow a passion of mine which was cooking. There’s no better career than the one you love!
Q. Are you from the North?
Yes, I’m originally from Liverpool
Q. How did you fall into becoming a chef?
I always loved cooking but never really thought of it as a career as a lot of people tried to put me off being a chef because of the long, unsociable hours. Despite this I went for it and have not looked back since.
Q. Did you have a passion for cooking as a youngster?
As a youngster I had a passion for watching cooking programmes but it wasn’t until my late teens that I really developed a passion for it.
Q. What was your first chef job and what learning curve did you experience?
My first job was part-time while I was studying at college. This was at a 2 Rosette restaurant which quickly gained 3. There is, in my opinion, a massive difference between college and the working environment and that can be both mentally and physically difficult as a teenager, but also very rewarding.
Q. The stereotype of a chef is to be bad tempered and to swear a lot. How does it feel to be described as ‘gentle mannered?’
The industry is changing a lot now, and you can’t be that angry chef all the time. Management is a big part of my new job role and I feel you get the best out of people in an environment where everyone is happy to be there.
Q. So you worked for The Bath Priory. What did you do there?
I left a position as a junior sous chef in a 3 rosette restaurant for the opportunity to work in a Michelin star restaurant and gain valuable experience. In order to do that I sacrificed a reasonable salary and position and became a Commis, however I quickly gained respect and ran Garnish and Larder within a couple of weeks. This was the section in the kitchen that deals with all starter courses. It can be a very busy section, especially when doing it alone! Garnish is the section that deals with everything that goes onto the main course dish that isn’t the protein of the dish e.g. any sauces or vegetables.
Q. What did you learn from the team at The Priory?
Organisation and the standard that is expected in a One Michelin Star restaurant
Q. What was your role at the Lawn’s restaurant?
My role was senior sous chef
Q. What is your best experience as a chef?
Cooking for one of the Greats – Pierre Koffman! I cooked for him when he worked as a consultant in one of my previous places around five years ago, I cooked a pheasant dish with baby onion, chestnut, and artichoke with a jus. Knowing the stature of Koffman made me very nervous at the time. Being a young chef cooking for one of the greats with him watching my every move you can imagine the pressure.
Q. And your worst experience?
Not getting a job that I really wanted! But looking back it was a career move that I wasn’t ready for and it has only made me stronger and wants to be the best that I can be.
Q. Most embarrassing moment?
That would be telling…
Q. What kind of food do you like to cook?
Modern British, with elements from my travels and stages abroad.
“I believe that travelling to different countries and experiencing different cuisines is part of being a chef. How else would be able to develop and improve the dining experience that is available to our guests.”
Some of the most recent elements that I have brought back with me are fermentation and wild ingredients. This was gained whilst staging at Studio in Copenhagen, which, was headed by Noma’s former head of Research and Development Torsten Vildgaard who has recently returned to Noma 2.0.
To pick a country for food is very difficult as they all offer something different and unique. But if I must, my favourite destinations have to be Denmark for its sheer diversity and love for all things native; Japan for its unique flavours and how could I leave out the UK? The UK is steadily becoming one of the best destinations for food and has such a wide range of cuisines on offer to suite everyone. It also has amazing produce and there you go, a recipe for success.
Q. What can we expect from you at Rothay Manor?
I hope to continually provide our guests with beautiful food and to keep building on gaining a reputation as a foodie destination.
Q. Are there big plans for Rothay Manor? I hear its undergoing a refurb. Tell us more about that?
It’s a lovely building, but some of the guest rooms are getting a little tired, so we are starting a renovation project to update them all. The first phase will be ready by the beginning of February. We want to bring it up-to-date, but still retain its country house vibe.
Q. Do you have a passion for locally sourced ingredients?
Wherever possible it is great to use local ingredients such as the amazing lamb we get from our butcher who rears them himself, or the abundance of wild ingredients that grow in the Lakes.
Q. What has the Lake District got to offer in terms of local producers?
The Lake District has an abundance of great producers and is renowned around the UK from great independent fruit and vegetable suppliers to come of the best meat suppliers in the country that some restaurants in London use.
Q. Tell us more about the 9 course tasting menu?
Within the 9 course Tasting menu my team and I aim to produce a meal that excites but is also value for money, using only the best seasonal ingredients available. The flow of the menu is very important as each dish should complement each other but also offer something different.
I’ve tried to include an element of different tastes and textures to offer a full dining experience. One of my favourite courses on our tasting menu is the Cod dish, which is served with kohlrabi, douce seaweed, poached oyster and an oyster emulsion. I’m forever changing and developing the dishes, and am going through a big development stage now, with new dishes, which, are very exciting!
Q. What are the biggest challenges facing hotels and their restaurants this year?
In my opinion Brexit has already had a big impact as produce prices have risen.
Q. Your favourite posh place to eat in the Lakes?
One of my favourite places is Lake Road Kitchen as it offers something different and the menu changes every time you go.
Q. Your favourite café?
Apple Pie in Ambleside, the on-site Bakery produces some of the best pies I have tasted
Q. Market to visit?
La Boqueria in Barcelona has to be one of my favourites. Walking around seeing all the amazing produce then stopping at a stall for some amazing Iberica ham, you simply can’t beat it.
Q. Your favourite Comfort food?
It might sound a bit quirky but it has to a good quality Fish Pie, especially in the colder months
Q. What do you do in your leisure time?
As all chefs do I love to
eat out, but you can’t live in the Lake District and not love a good walk in the countryside.