Meet the team: Joe Robinson, Head Chef
We would love to introduce you to Joe Robinson, our talented head chef.
Joe hails from Leicester but now calls Lancaster home. He has worked in the Lake District for the last two years, in previous roles at Linthwaite House and Hipping Hall, before joining the Sun Inn as head chef. His career has taken him all around the world, from France to Australia.
We sat down with Joe to chat about his experience of working in kitchens around the globe, his passion for foraging and experimenting with unusual flavour combinations.
What’s it like working in restaurants around the world?
As a chef, you tend to go where the jobs are, not the areas specifically. In the UK I’ve been lucky to work in restaurants of a high standard and I’ve learnt a lot from doing so. I’ve worked in five restaurants with three rosettes, and two Michelin star restaurants. One of which was the Driftwood Hotel in Cornwall where I spent two and a half years as a junior sous chef – it was there that I specialised in sauces and pastry. During my time abroad, I lived in a place called Gap in the French Alps for just under a year and the food there was mountain-style French food which was interesting. When I lived in Sydney I learnt about not wasting any food. For example, when preparing an animal, it was literally from nose to tail with no waste at all. It was inspiring and I learnt a lot.
Tell us about your move to becoming our new head chef…
I thought the job would be a great opportunity. The restaurant already has two rosettes which is a good leg to stand on. The kitchen team is young and enthusiastic, they’re passionate about what they do, and I’m looking forward to working with them to introduce some new and exciting dishes on the menu.
What is your favourite thing about your role as head chef?
The best bit about my job is being able to create new things and being flexible, depending on what produce is in season. I’ll be working months in advance to research the menus and play around with ideas. I’m passionate about foraging and that will play a big part in the menu changes. It will always be season-dependent because that is the only way to use the best produce – it’s the best way to cook in my opinion.
What is one of your favourite dishes on the menu that you’ve created so far?
I really enjoy teaching myself experimental flavour combinations. For example, the main dish of pork belly with clams, chorizo, charred barbecue sweetcorn, pickled seaweed and cider jus. In my head, I thought the flavours would work and then I tried it out and it worked perfectly. I got the idea of pork belly and clams from the first cookbook I read when I was 18 and had always wanted to try it.
One of Joe’s favourite dishes – pork belly with clams, chorizo, charred barbecue sweetcorn, pickled seaweed and cider jus
Sounds delicious! And what would be your choice of drink?
Usually a lager or a gin, I like Monkey 47 and Batch. With a nice meal, it would have to be a glass of red wine.
What would you say is your favourite season for food?
Mine is spring. Many chefs will say it’s their favourite but then get bored of it very quickly. There’s fantastic fresh produce, such as asparagus, peas, broad beans and wild garlic. On the foraging side, the wild garlic is definitely my favourite as it’s so versatile.
A selection of Joe’s foraging delights
A day in the life of Joe Robinson
My alarm goes off at 9:30am. I drive to work from my home in Lancaster and arrive before 11am. As soon as I arrive, I’m straight in the kitchen. I check all the sections with a list and ensure that each chef knows what they’re doing that day. The priority is that everyone is getting set and ready for lunch and dinner. I prioritise the jobs for the chefs, which is mainly prepping the food. Our lunch service runs from 12-3pm so I’ll work through until this is finished.
Every day is fresh, we never get too far ahead and start each day anew. This means that we’re pretty busy consistently throughout the day. In the afternoon, I do the pastry preparations, including cakes, tarts and parfaits – and I’ll guide our apprentice in some of the jobs. Throughout the afternoon, I’ll also prepare all the protein for the evening service. Before dinner service begins, we make sure the place is clear and clean, ready for 6pm. During the evening, I’ll be on the pass, which means I’ll be plating up all the main courses, checking the starters and ensuring all dishes are presented as they should be. I’ll usually clock off around 11pm and head home. I’ll chill out with a beer and catch up with my Mrs. She also works in hospitality so our conversation will usually always revolve around work!