So if you haven’t yet heard about Crocker’s Chef’s Table, where have you been? It’s the newest, most exciting restaurant on the block and the utmost in cool, unique dining experiences.
Not only have they scored the brilliant Scott Barnard (from Masterchef fame), but the restaurant has a unique set up whereby the dining area surrounds the food prep station. So you get to enjoy the incredible, seasonal food, but also the theatre of the food being created, putting you at the heart and soul of the kitchen.
Having followed him from the beginning, I hugely admire Luke’s passion and enthusiasm for food as well as his different approach to running a restaurant. So of course I was very keen to catch up with him as part of my Maverick blog series and hear about how he did it…
How long have you worked in the restaurant industry?
I’ve worked as a chef for 9 years. I started late – at 23 having spent the years after college just doing any old job to pay the bills, but I always wanted to be a chef so eventually I just went for it.
What or who inspired you to start out in the business?
I grew up in the restaurant industry – my Dad opened the original Crocker’s back in the late 80’s. It was more of a grill style place, serving big steaks and crazy desserts, but I got stuck in at weekends, grating cheese and generally getting in the chefs’ way! I’m actually the fifth generation of Garnsworthy to go into catering, so I guess you could say it’s well and truly in the blood.
As a teenager I was also inspired by Jamie Oliver – The Naked Chef was on TV and it looked amazing! His passion really sparked something in me.
What made you decide to start Crocker’s Chef’s Table?
Having moved to Berkhamsted with my now wife, I always dreamt of opening a restaurant in town. It felt like so many chains had appeared, so I tried to think of something different. In the Summer of 2016 I was fully booked, cooking private dinner parties, so we decided to bring our plans forward to open Crocker’s. I think it’s safe to say we’ve created something very different!
Tell us about Scott Barnard, how did you meet him and did he take much persuading to come and work with you?
I met Scott during the Winter his series of Masterchef was aired. Dee his wife was promoting him on local Facebook groups, so we chatted about a potential guest chef night in my little restaurant (not yet open). 10 months later, the night went ahead and was a huge a success, so I offered him a job more or less straight away. What he didn’t realise was I’d had my eye on him for Head Chef from that first meeting. He didn’t take much persuading to join me as he was ready for the next step and I just couldn’t believe he hadn’t been snapped up already.
What’s been the highlight of running the restaurant so far?
The response from our guests is the most overwhelming and humbling part by far. It was always a risk to take an old bakery in a small village and try to turn it into a fine dining venue like nothing else. The fact our guests seem so happy and we’re now fully booked at weekends for dinner until late June is fantastic! Other than that I would say just running the business has been a huge highlight — I’ve learnt so much, so quickly and I’m loving every minute — we’re already looking for our second venue!
Gosh that is exciting! You’ve come so far in such a short time, but you’re right — the world is ready for people who want to do things differently and I for one love a business that is hardworking, enthusiastic and different. Cant wait to see what you guys do next!