2015 was a year that started with a fair degree of trepidation. In the December of 2014 we announced that we were not renewing our lease at Sienna, the restaurant Eléna and I had owned and run for twelve years. This was probably one of the most difficult decisions we had ever made. The restaurant was busy, we had retained our Michelin star for the fifth year, the Good Food Guide had given us our highest rating ever and we had retained the 3 AA rosettes that we first got in 2007. I also had in Mike and Adam the best kitchen team I had ever had. So why give it up? Well, you sometimes reach a point with a business where you just can’t move it forward and the challenge starts to go. Don’t get me wrong; running the restaurant was never going to be easy but we had a formula that worked and, in our eyes, there was little more we could achieve. Over the years we had explored many possibilities for expanding but nothing added up. It was time to move on to something new.
Our last few months at the restaurant were fantastic; we were busy, had a good team and the customers were happy. We did our last service on April 25th, exactly twelve years after we opened, and went out on a real high. On May 1st we completed on the sale of the restaurant and life took a new turn.
May was perhaps the hardest month, although I think we slept for at least half of it! It was so strange going from sixteen hour days in a particular place to having an erratic work pattern and a heap more free time. We had made the decision to take it relatively easy in May and June, although I was delighted to have a steady trickle of jobs coming my way. June, however, was all about the first Summer holiday we have had in twenty years.
Italy was an utter delight; even the bits I didn’t enjoy added something to the experience. We took in Florence with its huge crowds, oppressive heat and endless hawkers, then moved on to Bologna and fell in love with the city’s rough charm. We relaxed in the Modena hills, delighted in the sophisticated calm of Modena itself and roared out of Venice on a thrilling water taxi to the airport. I don’t need to tell you how well we ate and drank.
Returning home, it was down to work; demonstrations, teaching, consultancy work but mainly writing and the food photography to support it. New challenges, new technology to get to grips with, just the thrill of learning! The cooking has still been at the fore, just in a different way. I have actually cooked a greater variety of food than I have for many years. Jams, chutneys, cakes, one pot wonders, simple suppers and still some high end cooking too.
I have cooked in Cornwall, Bolton, Berkshire and Jersey over the last five months and 2016 promises more travels. More guest chef nights, more writing and the growth of the photography side of the business
There are also several exciting projects on the horizon but they aren’t done deals yet, so for now I am keeping quiet and keeping my fingers crossed!
What started out as a year that looked daunting and was full of challenges has proved both enjoyable and successful too. I owe huge thanks to the many people who have supported, helped and encouraged me this year, it really is appreciated.
I look forward to talking to you all more and hopefully seeing many of you too.
Happy new year and all the best for 2016.