Chef talk: James Whitesmith at L'Horizon Hotel

11/01/13

When Head Chef James Whitesmith arrived at the beachside L'Horizon Hotel & Spa after years of working abroad in internationally acclaimed hotels like Vasco's at the Hilton Abu Dhabi, the first thing for him to get to grips with was the seasonality of Jersey's local produce…

L'Horizon Hotel showcases a menu that completely changes with the seasons, from spring lamb to winter venison. Why is seasonality so important?
It's vital if you want to get the freshest, best quality produce and serve food that fits the mood. At the moment, the venison is just what people want - big flavours which suits the chilly weather really well. By the time we get into the warmer months, it'll be completely different.

L 'horizon Terrace From Jersey Tourism
L'Horizon Hotel & Spa terrace: image from Jersey Tourism

Being based in a hotel on a small island - how does that affect the way you run the restaurant?

We work very closely with the local growers and suppliers.  Because we're so close - literally just up the road - they can let me know when things are almost ready so I can start incorporating them into my menus. It's so different to working in the UK where often you'd be dealing with larger suppliers. Here, I know the farmers, I know they can provide me with quality ingredients, and it's much more of a natural process to get the local produce onto my menus.

What are your favourite local products?
I love the spinach and the broccoli. The extreme seasonality is fantastic. And local samphire from St Ouen's Bay, that's just beautiful. Not to mention the sea kale... you couldn't get produce of this quality and freshness anywhere else!

Vegetables Jersey Tourism Crop
Jersey's Central Market: images courtesy of Jersey Tourism

How much of a challenge is it to keep such a local focus to your menu?
So much of what we serve is local - with the exception of Irish beef and English pork, because there's just not enough of it on the island for us. But I'd say 90% of what we serve is from the island. It has to be - I don't see the point of serving something that's shipped around the world, and pumped full of chemicals.  If you source something that's local, fresh, and that's been in the ground the day before, it's so much better than something in a packet that's come from the other side of the world and only has a few days of shelf life left. It's obvious.

What do you think are the trends for this year?
I think all the chefs are trying to interact more with their guests - breaking that barrier and taking feedback on board, and trying to give people the best experience possible. People are much more educated about food these days, so they often want to discuss things.

If you had to pick one favourite ingredient...
... it would be truffles.

W001-00001 Oyster Crop

Your favourite dishes on the menu at The Grill at the moment?
The oysters. They're so fresh - they were still in the sea a few days ago, and the life in them when you first open them is amazing. We choose large scallops and the flavour is fantastic. My favourite way of eating them? Oysters Kirkpatrick, the acidity in the tomatoes and the saltiness from the bacon adds something special. Then it would have to be the venison loin. It's Scottish venison and we serve it with a touch of Scottish whisky but everything else on the plate is from Jersey. The fondant parsnip and red cabbage give it a sweet and sour element which complements the rich flavour of the venison perfectly. And to finish, my prune soufflé with Armagnac ice cream and cinnamon shortbread. Soufflés are actually more straightforward to create than people realise… as long as you make them properly - and don't open the oven while they're cooking!

Things to look out for on the spring menu?
Sea trout, scallops and a rather nice lamb duo dish I'm planning which will feature lamb leg confit and lamb fillet, contrasting the rich and tender textures with a hint of truffle.

We can't wait! Explore L'Horizon Hotel & Spa's Grill Restaurant here…

To book a table at L'Horizon Hotel & Spa's Grill Restaurant, call +44 (0)1534 743101

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