In the kitchen with Jon Howe from Lumiere

Jon Howe, chef proprietor at Lumière in Cheltenham, talks tequila slammers, working with Heston at The Fat Duck and picking a Domino’s pizza as his last meal, in SoGlos's latest In the kitchen interview.

Jon, tell SoGlos readers a bit about yourself and where you work.

My name’s Jon and I’m chef proprietor at Lumière in Cheltenham. I’m originally from Frome in Somerset and began my career working in the Cotswolds at Lords of the Manor with John Campbell. I then returned to Cheltenham in 2009 when my wife and I bought Lumière.

Tell us a little about your training, where you’ve worked before and how you came to your current position.

After studying at Bath College, I worked for a number of Michelin Star and other highly acclaimed restaurants, gastropubs and hotels, including Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter and The Castle House Hotel in Hereford.

I took my first head chef job at the age of 25 at The Three Crowns in Ullingswick in Herefordshire to critical acclaim, achieving a Bib Gourmand, 2 AA rosettes and Les Routiers Dining Pub of the Year for UK and Ireland within my first eight months in the position. I have also worked on stages at two of the best restaurants in the country; The Fat Duck in Bray and The Greenhouse in London.

How would you describe your cooking style?

Modern, British fine dining.

Do you have a signature dish?

On our tasting menu, we serve tequila slammers – a salt crisp, tequila sorbet and lime sphere. It’s a great, fun course with lots of interaction but also really works well as a palate cleanser.

Do you have any other particularly popular dishes on your menu?

Our menus change all of the time, I use the best ingredients which are available to us on the day to produce a short menu of seasonal dishes.

Some of our current dishes include canapés made from rainbow trout, which I caught in Hampshire at the weekend, and diver-caught scallops from Oban in Scotland served with crispy pork belly, a shard of cumin caramel and an orange, carrot and star anise purée to start.

For the main course there’s Springfield Farm poussin served with freshly-grated black Australian truffle, garden peas, broad beans and Wye Valley asparagus. My favourite dessert would be a soufflé, currently peach melba served with vanilla ice cream and a sweet cicely syrup; and there is always a fabulous cheese board consisting of great British cheeses to finish.

Do you make a point of using local produce?

I try to use local produce wherever possible, not just because I like to say that I use local food, but because I really believe that Gloucestershire and the surrounding areas produce some of the finest ingredients anywhere. We source our meats from The Butts Farm, just outside of Cirencester, we love Cotswold Gold rapeseed oils and Helen’s dad grows some of our produce for us too. We also have fabulous local drinks suppliers, including gin from Sibling Distillery.

What are some of your favourite ingredients and why?

I love using beetroot because it’s just so versatile. At the moment I’m using it with a chocolate dessert, which is incredible but I also love the colours and textures which it provides to dishes too.

What first inspired you to become a chef?

I have no idea what my first inspiration was to become a chef; it’s just what I was always going to do. Either that or become a Formula 1 racing driver!

Which chef do you most admire and why?

That’s an easy one, Heston Blumenthal. I have talked with him on several occasions, as well as working at The Fat Duck for a while, and his whole attitude towards food and cooking is very much that the only limits to what you can achieve is your imagination. I also really admire Thomas Keller for his inspiration and motivation.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

The highlight of my career so far has to be buying our own restaurant; it is a great position for any chef to be in, just being able to work with no owner or management constraints. Our biggest achievement since being at the restaurant is probably being named in the Top 5 Fine Dining Restaurants in the country by TripAdvisor for the past two years running, alongside the like of The Fat Duck, Le Manoir and Gidleigh Park.

Who is the most memorable person you’ve cooked for, what did you make and more importantly, did they enjoy it?

I have been fortunate enough to cook for some very famous personalities such as Charles and Diana and the Gallagher brothers. The one that always makes me laugh is Al Murray, who burst into my kitchen mid-service declaring his love for oxtail faggots!

Have you had any kitchen nightmares?

Yes, who hasn’t? The worst was probably a pork belly exploding in my face; I looked like I had chickenpox for weeks.

Who would you most like to cook for and why?

I love to cook for my customers; it doesn’t matter to me if they are a bin man or the Queen, just as long as they enjoy it.

Do you have any tips for amateur cooks?

Use great ingredients, always season, taste constantly and don’t be afraid to experiment.

What do you think will be the next culinary trend?

I’ve never really been one for following trends; good cooking will never go out of fashion as far as I’m concerned.

Are there any other restaurants that you rate highly in Gloucestershire?

The best meal we have had recently was Sunday lunch at The Talbot in Stow. We also love The Grape Escape in Cheltenham for a well deserved glass of wine after a busy week at work.

What do you get up to when you’re not in the kitchen?

I love fast cars and motor racing, fishing, skiing and spending time with my wife Helen, our Rottweiler Lucas, and our friends and family.

Do you have any special events coming up at your restaurant that you think our readers should know about?

My wife Helen is taking part in Gloucestershire’s Got Talent in aid of The National Star College, so we are hosting a couple of charity events this summer/autumn to raise funds. Details are still being finalised but keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook pages for all the details.

And finally, what would you choose for your last meal and why?

Fresh crusty bread, a Domino’s pepperoni pizza and lots of beer. I have recently found out that I have a gluten intolerance, so these are all now things I can’t have anymore. It has been an interesting process eliminating gluten from much of our menu and it has changed the way that I prepare dishes.

For more information see Lumière or call (01242) 222200.

By Anna McKittrick

© SoGlos
Friday 24 July 2015

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