In this, the first of a series of Q and As with local chefs at some of my favourite restaurants, I caught up with Lee Clarke.
Having established himself as a chef of some repute in Peterborough at Clarkes, between 2011 and 2016, Lee launched Prévost in Priestgate - which celebrated its second birthday last month.
Recognised with a listing in the coveted Michelin Guide within months of opening, Prevost has gone on to catch the attention of the Good Food Guide and “gastronome’s Bible” Hardens.
Where did it all begin - how did you get into the business?
I went to Peterborough Regional College to study catering after leaving school, and moved to London to my first chef’s job at the Conrad hotel in Chelsea harbour.
What were your ambitions then - and now?
At the beginning I just wanted to work in the best restaurants in London.
But, as I have got more confident I would love to be the first restaurant in Peterborough to gain a Michelin star. But I’m really pleased to have gained Peterborough’s first listing in the Good Food Guide
Who have been your influences?
At the beginning it was all about Marco Pierre White, but as my food tastes have moved away from French cuisine I have been more influenced by new Nordic cuisine.
I really like the nature theme running through their dishes and read a lot about Noma and Maaemo.
Closer to home I really like Sat Bains in Nottingham and Ledbury in Notting Hill, London.
How have you come to be in Peterborough?
I went to school at Arthur Mellows Village College in Glinton, and when I had the chance to leave London and open a restaurant in Peterborough I jumped at the chance.
I never thought I would say that when I left Peterborough for my first job in London!
Where have your talents in the kitchen taken you?
I was lucky. I got to work for Marco Pierre White and Albert Roux - two of the godfathers of cooking in UK food. I really enjoyed working at The Ivy and 5th floor Harvey Nics as they both had an amazing buzz about them.
How important is the team around you at Prévost?
The team is everything, they are the engine that drives the business forward – I’m just the steering wheel.
I am lucky that I have a hard rock of a right hand man in Cory, who is key to making the place run as well as it does.
Is recruitment in Peterborough difficult?
We are lucky that it seems at the moment people want to work for us, so recruitment is not too bad. But we have moved with the times, we pay above national living wage and try to ensure our staff have three nights a week off.
What can people expect from your menus?
Creativity, taste and balance . I do have a soft spot for comfort food but I try to keep it refined.
What was the first dish you put on a menu?
My first dish on a menu was a swordfish dish with mango at the Bell at Stilton, where I did my work experience. It was terrible and the head chef at the time helped me clean it up and refine it.
What is the most recent?
Recently we had Norfolk quail with asparagus and wild garlic. I enjoy the fact that we follow the seasons and change the menus monthly, which keeps it interesting
Your Favourite dish on the menu at the moment - and why?
I love the quail Scotch eggs as they are little bundles of joy, and are very popular.
What gives you most pleasure working in/owning a restaurant?
Making people happy. I really enjoy customers leaving having had a special night with full belly and a big smile.