As part of the culinary establishment Annie & Germain Schwab cut a swathe through the gastronomic desert that is Lincolnshire with their legendary restaurant with rooms, Winteringham Fields. Their list of achievements and accolades is absolutely mind boggling, the two Michelin stars, an MBE for Annie, five rosettes from the AA & two Cateys from The Caterer, the list just keeps on going.
Winteringham Fields was their second venture after running their private dining club from Beck Farm Restaurant near York. In the first year of Winteringham Fields, it entered the top 20 in the Good Food Guide and subsequently went on to score 9/10 in following years. Michelin duly got in on the act as well, awarding the first star in 1994 with the second following in 1999.
So with this wealth of experience from the very top of the culinary game, we bring you Mr & Mrs Schwab’s words of advice.
1.How do you feel the industry has changed since you left working in the pressured environment of a multiple starred kitchen?
How do we think it has changed?
As far as it’s possible to comment without behind the scenes knowledge
of individual kitchens.
When we started out on our journey to make our mark on the industry I
do believe it was a much more exciting challenge than it has been over
the last decade, their were so many opportunities for chefs to create
something new and different, in every country there were young chefs
pushing back boundaries of creativity, showing their customers just
what was possible to achieve with flair and imagination. These chefs
made dining out an exciting experience and still continue to do so in
some respects but there does seem to be an element of ‘jumping on band
wagons’. The industry needs to constantly invent and excite to maintain
the public interest in cooking. Todays diners know much more about the
food they eat, they demand great ingredients, they want to know the
source and the sustainability and they want value for money wether at 3
star level or bistro.
I would be the first to say that it’s not an easy task to keep your
workforce motivated, but this motivation must come from the top, never
taking your eye of the ball, never losing sight of your goal, our
industry is one of the most exciting and challenging on this planet,
we must keep pushing the boundaries to attract the young new talented
minds, give them the reins and watch them reach for the stars. The risk
is now that we are begining to rest on our laurels and becoming ‘old
2. What advice would you give to any chefs reading this, who feel that they have what it takes to achieve Michelin stars & AA Rosettes?
I cannot count the number of times I have heard chefs say ‘ the
accolades are not important, it’s pleasing my customers that
I am more concerned with’. This is usually the quote from chefs that
have never achieved or have lost accolades. If you are impressing the
inspectors then you will automatically be impressing your customers. We
all want to be reconised for our efforts in one form or another and to
do this with great media coverage is brilliant for your business.
I am going to stand up and be counted, we wanted Michelin stars and
AA rosettes, we wanted to get top marks in The Good Food Guide, we
to win Catey awards, it makes you feel good about yourself and it makes
you determined to do better year on year. Go out there and fight for
the accolades, you might nearly kill yourself with the effort but
believe me there is no greater feeling in the world for a chef and his
to be told that their restaurant is one of the best in the country.
3. Do you have a different view towards the guide books now that you’re not at the ‘coalface’, so to speak?
The answer to this question is a simple one, no our views have not
changed. The guide books play an enormous part in the succesful rise or
indeed the fall of a restaurant. It gives the dining public a benchmark
of quality and value for money. If only other industries had the same
facility for instance, doctors, hospitals, vets, hairdressers,
florists etc. the list is endless, how much money would that save us
This is the role of the guide inspectors, to save us wasting our time
and money. Long may they continue to do so.
4.Do you feel that cooking skills are being diminished with the growing use of equipment like waterbaths, sous-vide, pacojets & thermomixes?
Having the latest ‘gadget’ in your kitchen is desirable but not
essential, these pieces of equipment are costly investments and out of
reach to the young restaurateur. Learning your trade from an old master
is invaluable and will stand by you throughout your career, the old
skills and techniques will always help you out in an emergency, power
cut etc. As long as the industry recognises this and keeps this in the
training at college level then chefs will always be well grounded from
the off. Thermomixes, pacojets etc. are amazing innovations and are
there to make life easier, if we had our time again we would have the
5. How do you feel that the industry could better prepare and service the needs of younger chefs entering catering?
Every now and then a young talented chef comes along who need a helping
hand, someone who has the passion and skill to take him all the way to
the top but financially unable to set up on his own. If it were
possible to have the help of catering industry based, venture
capitalists who were there not only financial backing but also for help
and advice. There input would be invaluable , so many costly mistakes
could be avoided in the early years of a business with the help of an
experienced and succesful restaurateur there to point out the pitfalls.
As with all our Words of Advice – series, we’d like to thank Mr & Mrs Schwab for taking the time to answer the questions for us & we’d like to wish them all the best for the future. As always we’d also like to thank several people who helped point us in the right direction to find them, Mark Birchall from L’enclume and as ever Amanda Afiya from The Caterer. Unfortunatly we don’t have any pictures of Mr Schwab’s food, but the one dish we do remember seeing is the Cannelloni of Langoustine & Corn fed Chicken, recipe courtesy of Caterersearch.