Exclusive Interviews

Chatting art, Arsenal and ambition with Ian Swainson

Having brought you the news that Ian Swainson would be leaving The Samling to take on a new challenge at The Pass (taking over from Matt Gillan), we have now had the chance to catch up with one of Britain’s most talented chefs (if you want proof of his talent, have a look here at some of the food he created for Harvey Nichols in Leeds).

Here’s what Ian has had to say about this huge moment in his career.

You delivered some spectacular food at The Samling. What are you hoping to achieve in your new role at The Pass?

The food at The Samling was one part of my life. I am now in a new era, I want my food to be more expressionist and clean, more colourful and yet more pure in its composition. The Pass is an amazing opportunity to become more inspired in the food that I cook.

I am very excited to not only work in such an amazing set up as South Lodge but I also feel that I have come home. I believe that to be truly inspired you need to have a great work and personal life balance.

The food is centred around my love for the arts, which allows me to look at food in a different manner and be very playful.

How do you overcome the challenge of working in a new cooking environment?

I overcome the challenge of cooking in different environments in the same way that any professional would. Cooking is cooking, a stove is a stove. They might work slightly differently but in essence we are all cooking on gas.

Have you got any new dishes that you are really excited to be working on that you can tell us about?

I am working on about five projects at the moment. It is still very early days at the Pass, but until the dish is ready I don’t talk about it. I guess that I am a little superstitious like that!

Having been lucky enough to try your art inspired menu at Harvey Nichols, is artwork something that continues to inspire your cooking?

Absolutely. I do believe that the Harvey Nichols experience was a major catalyst in an already growing style that I was developing. If anything, I have tried to look much deeper into the mind-set of the artist. This helped me to find a way to express my own stories though cooking.

Who, or what, has been your biggest inspiration as a chef?

I like to look at different people. It’s the artist who feels that they have the freedom of expression, there is too much fear in the world that stops people from doing things differently.

The artist of the surrealist movement of the 1920-50s inspires me to be different. At the same point I could talk about different chefs for hours: Sergio Herman, Quique Dacosta, Michel Bras, Heston Blumenthal, of course Ferran Adria and the list goes on. These people are all in their own right master craftsmen and artists, they just use different methods.

Which food that you have eaten in the past has inspired you the most?

About five years ago, I ate at the Ledbury, and was presented with a Mackerel fillet which had been burnt on the skin. My initial thoughts were that it was overcooked, but having heard from numerous people about how good it was, I still had very high expectations.

When I started to eat the fish, it became apparent that this underused, underappreciated protein was the best ingredient that had ever entered my mouth! The moral to this experience was very apparent, that with freshness, quality of preparation, attention to detail and inclination this chef had managed to pull out flavours that I didn’t ever believe to be possible.

It is now my lifetime goal to do this with every ingredient that I ever put on a plate…maybe one day I will achieve it!

Finally, as a fellow Gooner, can you tell us where you stand on the ‘Time for Change’ movement?!

In Arsenal we trust! I do personally feel that although Monsieur Wenger should probably leave at some point, he still has more to give, which he may achieve in a new environment. My biggest problem is trying to find a replacement.

He has given us the opportunity to watch Arsenal at the highest level of football (the Champions League) in every year since taking over the club. It is an incredible achievement, especially when you look at some of the squads that we have had!

He is and always will be a legend and if he stays for the next 10 years I will be a loyal and supportive fan of him and the club.

Thanks so much to Ian for taking the time to talk to us. If you want to try out the new direction Ian is heading in and find out a little more about South Lodge Hotel you can do so here.

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1 reply »

  1. I can’t imagine Arsenal without Arsene. This last season has been awful for me, a Gooner in Leicestershire! I have Jamie Vardy living round the corner and see him in his blue Bentley all the time!
    PS The food looks excellent – the Melting Clocks!


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