Chef of Chef Works: John Serhal FEBRUARY 2023
Chef: John Serhal.
Restaurant/Kitchen: Origin Kensington.
Location: Royal Garden Hotel, London.
Social Media: @jserhal @royalgardenhotellondon - Instagram
This month we’re delighted to introduce Executive Chef John Serhal from Origin Kensington – The Royal Garden Hotel’s stunning ground-floor restaurant which revolves around the very best seasonal British produce. A proud wearer of the Chef Works sustainable collection, find out Chef John’s best culinary tips and more in this month’s feature…
1. Your restaurant/role:
I’m the Executive Chef at the 5 star Royal Garden hotel in Kensington, where I manage a brigade of 45 chefs across the Main Kitchen, Pastry, Banqueting and the Staff Canteen. No two days are the same here which is what keeps it interesting, from a banqueting dinner for 400 to breakfast or planning the new VIP amenities for the rooms of which we have 395.
2. Describe your kitchen:
Very busy – it’s a hotel so we have service 24hrs a day. There’s a good mix of youth and experience which helps us develop the younger, less experienced chefs we have.
Steamed Peterhead Cod, Frederick Haim Parsnip Puree with Wilted and Crispy Kale.
3. Favourite Chef Works item and why?
My Sustainable Cannes Chef Coat. It was an easy choice, it looks great, is very comfortable and most importantly it’s sustainable – even made from recycled plastic bottles.
4. What was your first job?
My first job was in the pot wash before I started as an apprentice.
5. Favourite cookbook and why? (we love recommendations)!
White Heat by Marco Pierre White. I read this book all the time when I was first in the kitchen as an apprentice and for years afterwards I still used the base recipes from it. Marco was of course an icon who all young chefs wanted to cook like, and I was no different.
6. Your awards/career highlights to date?
Finishing my apprenticeship is still a big highlight, this was at The Langham hotel in London, under Executive Chef Anthony Marshall. Then moving up working in Michelin or Rosette standard restaurants, being made Sous Chef for the first time then my first Head Chef position. Then finally, my first Executive Chef Job in Stockholm and now being Executive Chef at The Royal Garden, each moment is a key highlight and an important part of my journey. In terms of awards, I’m not really a glory seeker, so the awards are only achievable with a great team which I’ve been lucky enough to be part of and now lead.
Chef John at work at Origin Kensington.
7. Your cooking inspiration and why?
My Dad, I spent so much of my childhood in his kitchen, so from this, I was only ever going to be a Chef.
8. Your speciality dish and what makes it so special (we love tasting notes)?
I’m not sure I have a speciality dish, but at the moment in Origin Kensington we have our signature Boston Rib, Origin Shepherd’s Pie and The Custard Tart which are all very special.
9. Favourite go-to dish to eat and why?
It changes, but currently it’s the custard tart on the menu, it is really delicious!
Orkney Scallops with Hazelnut and Celeriac Veloute, Scallop Roe and a Muscatel Dressing.
10. Weirdest thing you ever ate?
Surströmming, it’s a Swedish tradition; lightly salted fermented Baltic Sea herring.
11. Favourite ice cream flavour and what do you pair it with?
Vanilla ice cream with warm apple crumble although passion fruit sorbet is a close second.
12. Favourite family recipe?
My Grandma’s Treacle Tart – it's a classic.
13. Favourite wine – if you could only pick one which would it be?
Red is my go-to choice, either Malbec, Merlot or Pinot Noir.
Chef John at the busy Origin pass.
14. Who would you most like to cook for and what would you cook for them?
I’d love to cook for any of my old Chefs!
15. And who would you least like to cook for?
My kids, they’re the hardest critics I’ve got.
16. Favourite things to do when not cooking:
Family time, we don’t get much so what we do get is very precious.
17. Your latest project:
Currently the main focus is on the newly renovated and reopened Origin Kensington, where we are already starting to work on our spring menu which we will launch at the end of March. Origin Kensington brings a breath of fresh air to the dining scene in Kensington, and we are excited to offer locals and visitors at the Hotel alike a truly memorable dining experience and building the team to help make the restaurant a great success.
18. Favourite city, what makes it so special to you?
I’m a Londoner, so it has to be here without doubt. But the 10 plus years I spent in Stockholm make it very close to my heart as well. After all, it’s where my daughters were born – a very special place indeed!
19. Your greatest indulgence?
Dry Roasted Peanuts, always.
20. And finally, your all-time best culinary tip:
Don’t be afraid to try new things and taste everything!
Photography: Jason Russell and food images by John Taylor.