His CV is remarkable and includes some notable names, including Dad’s L’Enclume in Cartmel, Manchester House, Fera at Claridge’s and the Grand Hotel in York, where he won back their 3 AA Rosettes.
Simon was going great guns at Dakota when the pandemic struck just seven months into his role. Covid may have slowed down his aims but not his enthusiasm to make The Grill one of the city’s best restaurants. I, for one, believe he will do it.
What is the first thing you remember cooking? I was a 14-year-old pot washer in Dad’s kitchen and cooking wild mushroom pasta for staff food, and to this day, I still cook this dish at home. I had no inspiration to be a chef as my dream was to be a footballer.
Who is your culinary inspiration? Always the up-and-coming chefs that surround me. However, as a young chef, I was inspired by some of the head chefs in my Dad’s organisation, including in the early days, John Bradshaw at L’Enclume, Cartmel, and recent years Dan Cox of Fera at Claridge’s.
Which is the first cookbook you owned? White Heat by Marco Pierre White, but only because I stole it from my Dad. The cookbook I am enjoying at the moment is Mirazur, a gift from my team. I am enjoying using some of the methods and techniques from the world’s current best restaurant.
Who would be your three dream dinner guests? First, Matt le Tissier, the Southampton footballing legend. Southampton is the team I’ve supported all of my life and the city I’m from. Floyd Mayweather because of my love for boxing, and he is one of the greatest boxers ever. Elon Musk is a fascinating person; I would love to see what a day in his life is like.
Your favourite piece of kit in the kitchen? Thermomix, with it being so versatile, and a close second would have been the Pacojet.
What ingredient could you not live without? Most definitely cheese; I love cooking with cheese as it can be used in so many ways and offers variety and flavouring to so many of my dishes.
What are your guilty food pleasures? Pizza is my favourite food by far, and any topping goes.
With the reopening of hospitality hopefully coming, what plans do you have for the Dakota Grill? Lockdown has been a precious time for me, allowing me to develop and write new exciting menus for the reopening.
There’s a huge team focus on our ultimate goal, to be the best restaurant in Leeds. We have some new dishes hitting the menu, from king scallops ‘‘casino’’ with heirloom tomatoes; chicken schnitzel with hen of the woods mushrooms, brassicas and black truffle, and a yuzu posset with morello cherry and marzipan.
We also have some favourite dishes returning too, like our brisket and bone marrow ‘‘Reuben’’ croquettes, North Sea trout with grilled Hispi cabbage and mussel velouté and our dark chocolate marquise with coffee and peppermint.
Recently, having been recognised by Michelin shows we are heading in the right direction and will be doing all we can to get to that next level.
Many plans are being discussed about special events to showcase dishes to guests before they hit the menu, giving them an exclusive opportunity to see it first.
It will show the city of Leeds that the food they get at Dakota is up there with the best restaurants in the country.