Simon Rogan, owner of Roganic, on farming, simplicity and embracing London
1. The farm is central to everything we do. Everything revolves around what it gives us.
2. We don’t use anything that doesn’t taste good. That sounds a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised how many guys don’t follow that adage. We do forage, but it has become a very overused medium recently and there are people using stuff which to be quite honest doesn’t taste particularly nice.
3. For me beauty is simplicity. Beauty is one amazing ingredient that you focus on, and one or two things to support it. That is the way I like to cook: I am not interested in over-fussing, and when ingredients are as amazing as we get from our farm, there’s no need.
4. In my early days as a chef, the idea of London scared me. I had always worked in the Home Counties or along the south coast. Working for Jean-Christophe Novelli showed me there was more to life—that I should experience London and Paris. You go where the most amazing job is. You find the chefs you admire and you work with them, no matter where they are or what it’s like. JC opened my eyes as a restaurateur as well as a cook.
5. We are not a vegetarian restaurant, but vegetables are the star of the show. The vegetables come first, and the meat or fish is only ever an accompaniment. As for the vegetarian dishes, what I think makes our restaurants special is that you don’t miss the meat or fish. We are big exponents of not eating a lot of animals, because of the impact on the environment.
6. I will grow anything. Anywhere I travel I find seeds to bring back and try to grow. We don’t just grow indigenous plants on our farm; we grow saffron, sunflowers, wasabi, and we are looking at growing vanilla and hemp. Funnily enough, the hardest thing is carrots. They always seem to be eaten by something.
7. There is, of course, a lot that goes into the three items on your plate. A simple plate of food has a story to tell. The sauce might have been made with a rotary evaporator. The oil might have been spun on a centrifuge. A lot of hard work goes into it—but we do things to help the flavour rather than change it: to try to keep it in its natural state.
8. One of the greatest things I’ve been involved with on the farm is our waste management system. It’s a closed circle system: the fruit, herbs and vegetables are grown alongside the animals. The waste from the restaurant gets eaten by the pigs, chickens and ducks. They convert it to green waste, which goes back into compost.