We’d like to introduce you to Mike Francis, our head chef, as we talk to him about why he became a chef, how he approaches food and what makes working at the Scarlet so special.
Unusually for a chef, it was sitting his English GCSE that sent Mike Francis down a culinary career path. When the exam paper asked him to analyse a passage from one of Jamie Oliver’s healthy eating cookbooks the 16-year-old Mike found himself hooked, not on literature but cooking. He was so inspired by Oliver that he left school and landed himself a job as a commis chef at the 5 star, 1 Michelin star Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa – a testament to his passion and natural ability.
He spent six happy years at Lucknam learning his craft and becoming a chef de partie. It was only the opening of the Scarlet Hotel in 2010 that tempted him away from Lucknam and he’s been at the Scarlet ever since. Working his way up from chef de partie to senior sous chef, he made head chef two years ago.
“Nothing beats the Scarlet for scenery and fresh produce,” he says.
“You’ve got every kind of fresh produce you could possibly want on your doorstep and it’s all local.”
“It’s also great to be able to take 10 minutes to walk on the beach during your working day. Not many chefs get to do that.”
Mike’s refreshingly unpretentious approach to the job belies his technical acumen and his commitment to his craft. He got hooked on cooking as a child, helping his mum and nan out in the kitchen and from them, he’s inherited a preference for letting the produce speak for itself, rather than get caught up in fancy foams and elaborate gelling techniques. His favourite meal remains his mum’s steak and ale pie.