Simon Rogan’s Long, Slow Climb to a Third Star is a Lesson in Patience
Almost exactly twenty years to the day since Simon Rogan opened his Cartmel restaurant, L’Enclume, in 2002 he finally won the accolade of his dreams: a third Michelin Star. The culinary cognoscenti have long known how good L’Enclume is but fewer know the amount of time and dedication Rogan has put into the journey.
One of the quirks of the Rogan story has been his involvement with the Roux Scholarship. Back in 2000 whilst he was head chef at Addington Place in Croydon his then sous chef, Frederick Forster entered and won The Roux Scholarship. The prize was a 3 month stage at a 3 star restaurant. Forster chose Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.
For Rogan this was also a game-changer. He’d spent two years in the 1990’s working at 3-star chef Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton in Paris and he had seen what it took to get the ultimate accolade.
“I remember what it did for me personally when my first chef I had working for me won (The Roux Scholarship) and that was Freddy Forster,” Rogan remembered years later. “My conversations with him while he was on his stage at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris were a catalyst for me to follow the path that I did – because it was so interesting, so fresh and so new.
“What winning the competition brings is that it takes (the winner) to a new environment, a different way of looking and doing things and sometimes it takes you off in a direction that you don’t expect.”
Forster’s win was not forgotten and over the course of twenty years Rogan has had more Roux Scholarship success than any other chef patron. Both Mark Birchall and Tom Barnes were working at L’Enclume when they won the competition. Birchall went to Spain to do his stage at El Cellar de Can Roca and Barnes chose the Belgian restaurant Hof Van Cleve.
However, other winners of the Roux Scholarship have also had an influential role in Rogan’s restaurants. Dan Cox, who won in 2008, later headed up Rogan’s experimental research kitchen Aulis and Harry Guy, winner in 2016, later became operations manager of Rogan’s London restaurants Aulis and Roganic. Other winners have spent time in his kitchens before entering and winning the competition. Spencer Metzger, who won in 2019, worked as a chef de partie at L’Enclume in 2016.
Whilst it is impossible to say what effect all these winners had on the eventual success on L’Enclume it is clear that they did have an effect. They were inspired by what they learnt elsewhere and brought this learning back with them where it was assimilated into the whole.
Rogan’s twenty-year journey has been a lesson in patience, investment in younger, ambitious, chefs and a willingness to embrace the new. Spending time in different kitchens in different parts of the world really has an enormous effect on young chefs and L’Enclume has become the restaurant it is by harnessing some of that knowledge.