Q&A With Head Chef Rob Mason

We did a quick Q&A with Head Chef Rob Mason. Rob now brings his flair and flavour pairings to 1919 Restaurant. His menu is heartfelt and instinctive, led by using top quality, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.

What’s your cooking ethos and style?

I would say that my cooking style is modern British, but keeping it classic. I use a lot of modern techniques but some things, like fish, are still cooked old school in a pan with butter – it’s the best way! I like to cook food that I like, and that I would want to eat myself.

But for me, it’s all about the ingredients. Using the best local ingredients possible for the best flavour. I will never have a dish on the menu for its popularity, if the produce is out of season and the dish won’t be the best it possibly can be. What I cook is very much influenced by the product and I look to our suppliers to guide us. All the way throughout my career, this has been at the forefront. I am a strong believer in taking the best ingredients and letting them do the talking!

Pickling and fermenting is an important part of my menus, again because of seasonality. It enables us to take the best seasonal produce, but use it later in the year.

Tell us about your sourcing and supplier ethos 

For me, local is best. I always try to source the best local, seasonal produce.

From the meat that goes into our burgers, to the fish, and vegetables I look for the very best local and, where possible, sustainable products. Better products equal better dishes. That’s exactly how my menus are developed – by looking for the best available produce and developing dishes from there. Our suppliers are a huge part of this, as they advise me on what’s in season and what’s the best. They’re the experts.

How do you come up with new menus and dishes and what’s your inspiration?

Ingredients. Locality and seasonality are key. Aside from that, I work with the team. It’s important we work on ideas together – and we include the food that we would like to eat.

What made you want to work at The Cottage in the Wood Malvern?

The Cottage in the Wood Malvern has offered me an amazing opportunity, and it’s the first opportunity I’ve had to do my own thing.

I’ve worked with some amazing chefs for the past five years in some really special places, but I’ve always wanted to put my own stamp on something.

The view and the whole hotel and restaurant is an incredibly special environment, and there’s a great team who match my values. We’re all striving to be the best we can and to keep improving. In the kitchen, we’ve got a young team all under 30 and that feels like a really exciting opportunity.

What are your goals for 1919 Restaurant?

The main goal is creating a relaxed dining experience with delicious food. I want people to walk away wondering when they can come back. Whether it be lunch or a special occasion, I want to create an experience that customers come back to time and time again.

Of course progression is important, and constant progression is what I will be striving for. I’ve worked at many exciting places, with 4AA rosettes and Michelin stars, and who knows what might be on the cards.

One thing I’m really passionate about is that I want The Cottage in the Wood Malvern to have their own kitchen garden, growing seasonal vegetables and allowing us to offer a farm to fork experience.

Is there anything you’re passionate about in the wider industry?

Yes – lots! Namely: apprenticeships, mental health, and sustainability.

Apprenticeships are so important to our industry and it’s very rewarding to give someone a start in the industry and help them grow into what is a great career.

Mental health in the industry has largely been unspoken about until more recently. It’s great that it’s being better recognised and I want that conversation to continue, especially for men as the industry is so dominated by. I hold an open book policy in the kitchen.

Sustainability has long been at the forefront of my mind and I’ve been trying to remove plastic and excess packaging from suppliers. There’s lots of ways that we can do better, and that’s what I’m going to continue to push for.

What’s your favourite ingredient and why?

Mackerel has to be one of my favourite ingredients. It’s one of my favourite things to cook and to eat, it’s such a versatile fish. When it’s good it’s really good, but unfortunately a lot of people don’t do it well. Watch this space for when it might appear on the menu at 1919 Restaurant!

What’s your dessert island meal?

I love a good parfait of foie gras, or a classic beef wellington!