We go behind the scenes at Bailbrook House and talk to Head Chef and AA rosette award-winner Jon Machin about his favourite ingredients and why he thinks it is so important to use local, seasonal produce.
Jon Machin took his first step into the world of cuisine at the tender age of 16 when he used to prepare fresh lobster bisque at a local restaurant in his home town of Barnsley. Little did he know back then that his love affair of food would take him around the world. His training under Herve Marchon – a Raymond Blanc trained chef nonetheless – led him to work in some of Yorkshire’s finest kitchens. Hooked on fresh produce, he spent the following years working in Jersey and under the tutelage of Terrance Greenhouse, the executive chef of the Cunard QE2.
Combining his passion for travelling and food, he then worked at sea on deluxe cruise ships for five years before heading up two luxury super yachts – namely Tatoosh and Octopus, where he experienced new flavours and methods of cooking from all over the world. As the popular saying goes however, home is where the heart is, and eventually Jon’s love of quality British ingredients brought him back to land in 2008. As head chef at several of the five-star Macdonald collection of hotels, he joined Hand Picked in 2014 and we are very proud that he is able to bring all of his globetrotting expertise to Bailbrook House Hotel.
What has been the inspiration for your summer menu this year?
I like to use local products and in Bath you are surrounded by some amazing locally grown vegetables, that you know have been looked after and the grower that is selling them to you is so passionate that you cannot resist putting the produce on your menu.
So, do you source as much local produce as possible for the restaurant?
Cloisters, our 2 AA Rosette, Restaurant, feature classic British dishes with a modern twist and we like to use the finest and freshest local ingredients. All of our vegetables are grown within a seven-mile radius for example – and my team have met all of our suppliers, our meat is reared on nearby farms and our fish is from Brixham, a small fishing town in Devon. This is something that is very close to my heart – when you use these ingredients you respect them when you are cooking and it gives me great pleasure in including this produce on the menu to ensure our guests have a memorable food journey.
Do you have a favourite dish?
My favourite dish on the new summer menu is the herb-crusted cannon of lamb with heritage caramelised carrots, which is both seasonal and local. It is a classic but this dish oozes summer elegance and flavour
And what wine would you pair with this?
Le Versant Pinot Noir, a smooth and well-balanced, medium bodied red from Southern France. With an aromatic nose of black cherries, I think it goes well with the lamb.
What is your favourite product in season now and why?
Strawberries – I love them as they are so diverse and you can use them in anything. They are also a good representation of great British produce.
How often do you get to cook at home for your family?
I cook at home for family when I am off, and tend to focus on Italian or Indian as this is what I learnt while I was at sea – I also like doing a traditional Sunday roast, BBQ and smoking my own meats. I love spending my spare time baking with my daughter, who is three-years-old – we make pancakes, cupcakes, brownies and lemon drizzle together.
If you were throwing a summer party at home what would you cook and why?
I like informal dining so people can chat while they graze and feel relaxed – this means I tend to cook things like sweet and smoky Coca Cola pulled pork, Thai flavoured burnt ends, Tandoori spiced chicken or even a whole fish cooked in the bag, which is an easy and flavoursome way of cooking fish.
What three ingredients could you not live without?
Thyme is a favourite of mine as it is so versatile and can be used all year round and I like heritage tomatoes, too, which just means an old variety and are more flavoursome. Both of these grow in the herb garden I recently built at Bailbrook, which is a lovely point of interest for our guests. Vanilla pods are also a great ingredient.
And what modern kitchen gadget could you not live without?
This is a hard one as I have a very few modern kitchen gadgets if I am honest. The team of kitchen porters are the most important to me as they are the backbone of the kitchen and without them, I could not do my job
You have travelled a lot in your career – is there a country or type of food that has influenced you?
I worked at sea for ten years of my career and as a result, I love Jamaican food because of the soul and heritage it brings in the flavours. I also like French food for the sophistication and class it has – the homard bleu, literally translated blue lobster, and Charolais beef, a hallmark of the Burgundy landscape and one of the oldest cattle breeds in the world, are some of my favourites.