Following the announcement that Matt Healy x The Foundry had won our British Roast Dinner Week award, we caught up with Healy to get a bit more insight on his journey to creating such a winning restaurant and roast.
Tell us how you became a chef?
I started washing up at a restaurant in the local village when I was 15 and progressed from there working for some great chefs along the way. I've worked in London, Manchester, Leeds – all over the place.
What’s been your biggest achievement as a chef?
Getting as far as I did on Masterchef (Matt was runner-up on Masterchef: The Professionals in 2016). Aside from that, it has to be opening my own restaurant.
What made you decide to apply for Masterchef?
When I went on the show, I wasn't even working in a kitchen, and my wife at the time dared me to go on. So, after a bottle of wine, I applied and went on to be overall runner-up.
How did Masterchef affect your life as a chef?
It gave me a golden ticket, which allowed me to go on and open my own restaurant.
What makes your roast such a winner?
Before I owned the restaurant, I never used to go out for Sunday lunch because I could never find somewhere that could do a roast as well as I could do it at home. I was reluctant to go out and spend 20 quid on a piece of undercooked lamb and overcooked veg. I aimed to make Sunday lunch here like a home away from home. And I think that's what we've done.
On average how many covers do you take a week?
In a week we do about 300. We're near-on full Tuesday through Saturday.
On average how many covers do you take for Sunday roast?
Well, due to winning this competition we've extended our opening hours on a Sunday by three hours. We've gone from doing 50 covers on a Sunday to 100!
How do you plate your roast dinner?
Basically, it all comes on one board for the table. Loads of roast chicken, loads of slow-cooked beef sirloin, duck fat roast potatoes, and a bottle of wine. It's not about fancy presentation, it's about having a perfect Sunday afternoon.
When is your busiest time of the week?
Thursday, Friday and Saturday we're booked a month in advance. And Sundays are going that way now, too.
How many staff do you have working on Sundays?
I have five lads in the kitchen, and I have four or five on the floor. After the first initial hit, I try to get out of the kitchen and go round to speak to all the customers. It sounds narcissistic, but I'm aware that people are keen to meet me, so I think it's good to give that to the customers.
How big is your team here?
We have six chefs, a kitchen porter - who is the most critical member of my team - and six staff on the floor. And we're doing a bit of a recruitment drive in time for the run-up to Christmas.
How do you ensure the relationship between front of house and back of house is positive?
Anywhere I've ever worked, there's never been a culture of 'front and back.' It's not in my interest to upset my floor staff because, after all, they're representing my brand. I've got two of my best pals working front of house, and I trust them implicitly with everything that goes on out here. They have full autonomy. All we want to do is earn money and have fun. So I try to create that culture in the restaurant.
What is one piece of advice you would give to young chefs wanting to succeed in the industry?
Buy a notebook, go to a good catering school. Then go and work somewhere where you'll know it'll be tough, and where you'll get your arse kicked for two years. That'll help you find where you want to be - whether that's in a vegan cafe or a fine dining restaurant. It's important to figure out what it is that makes you tick in the kitchen. Then chase after that and don't let anyone stand in your way.