CHRIS Harrod, who trained under the world famous Raymond Blanc, has become chef owner at the Michelin starred Monmouthshire restaurant with rooms The Crown at Whitebrook.
Chris, aged 39,developed his chef’s skills while working at Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, in Oxfordshire, which is recognised as one of the finest restaurant kitchens in the world.
Originally from Worcestershire, but most recently living in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, Chris comes to Monmouthshire from Denbighshire, North Wales, where he was consultant chef at Lord Newborough’s Rhug Estate Organic.
Chris was previously head chef at Colette's, the flagship fine dining restaurant of the 5 star hotel and golf resort The Grove, in Hertfordshire. Chris opened the restaurant and whilst there achieved 3 AA rosettes, 6/10 in the Good Food Guide. The Grove was voted AA hotel of the year."
The Crown at Whitebrook, near Monmouth, recognised as among the best restaurants in the UK, with Chris as chef owner and a completely new team, will open for business from October but bookings are being taken now.
Chris, who is recruiting a staff of 12 for the new venture, says he is excited at the prospect of continuing a tradition of fine dining at the internationally renowned restaurant.
His first appointment, as front of house manager, is Exeter College catering graduate of the year Steve Mason, who after graduation worked under Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and was head waiter and maitre d at the two Michelin star The Ledbury, in London.
Chris, who will live on site, said: “Becoming chef patron at The Crown at Whitebrook is quite simply a dream come true for me.
“I had been looking for a restaurant in Buckinghamshire, a country retreat in the Chiltern Hills with the potential to add rooms. I’d drawn a complete blank and then a friend mentioned The Crown at Whitebrook. I took a look and was amazed to find that it fits the bill right down the ground. I just can’t wait to get started.”
Speaking about his 15 year career, which also included two years at the Michelin starred L’Ortolan restaurant, in Reading, Berkshire, Chris said: “Working with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, was fantastic. He is the most passionate, enthusiastic chef with a relentless desire to achieve the very best in every thing he offers at Le Manoir.
But will the master chef pay a visit to Whitebrook? “Raymond is a passionate teacher and is very supportive of his protégés so I’m sure that one day he will come and visit The Crown at Whitebrook.”
Chris said his background is in fine dining and he intends to continue this French influenced British style of cooking at The Crown at Whitebrook using the abundance of local Monmouthshire and Welsh produce on his doorstep.
He said: “We will offer a set lunch menu, an a la carte menu and tasting menus and we will also be introducing a Sunday lunch menu with roasts.”
And what about the Michelin star?
Chris said: “I and my team are going into the Crown at Whitebrook to offer our very best. If we deliver that then I am confident that we will regain the reputation the restaurant has enjoyed previously.
“First we need to focus on making the restaurant work by offering our very best. We will be striving to deliver my unique vision rather than focusing on gaining awards or Michelin stars. If we concentrate on doing this then I believe recognition will be achieved in due course.”
The Crown at Whitebrook, which has held a Michelin star for seven years in succession under its previous head chef Caerleon-born James Sommerin, was one of just four restaurants in Wales to hold the coveted accolade. The three AA rosette restaurant with rooms closed down and ceased trading in March this year when previous owners, Monmouthshire-based Crown Hotels and Restaurants Ltd., went into administration, blaming snow and a winter shut down for its demise.
The eight-bedroom multi award winning Monmouthshire establishment was placed 27th in the UK in the Good Food Guide 2013 with a cooking score of 7/10, the best in Wales. The restaurant, after closing down, was subsequently advertised for sale or lease through specialist restaurants, hotels and pubs property agents, Sidney Phillips, of Herefordshire.