Welcome to our new feature, Tales from the rose garden, a monthly blog which aims to give you an insight into the lives and goings on in the kitchen. As the name suggests, at the centre of this is our Head Chef ‘Rose’ Mclean Johnson.
Daughter to Jamaican parents Rosetta and Benford was born in Wellington, Shropshire. She has an impressive track record in the catering industry spanning the last 30 years. However, this is not the career path she first intended. Rose had ambitions of becoming a nurse and attended Shrewsbury College where she enrolled on a pre-nursing course.
At the tender age of just 17 Rose sadly lost her father to leukemia. She fell out of love with nursing and embarked on a completely new adventure. Whilst not an obvious transition from nurse to Chef Rose has always been passionate about food – “I have a very large family. Cooking, particularly for a celebration was always at the centre of my family life” Her first ‘proper’ job was in a chocolate factory where she packed Easter Eggs (sounds like heaven!).
Soon after Rose went to work at the Park House Hotel in Shifnal as a trainee chef working under the guidance of Paul Clarkson. Rose quickly progressed and was soon assisting the company by carrying our relief duties at other hotels in the group. It was from here she progressed and relocated to Southampton where she stayed for 2 years before being contacted by now Executive Head Chef Paul Clarkson who had himself moved to another hotel – Madeley Court. Rose joined Paul once more and soon became head chef. After 7 years she left Madeley Court, and Shropshire for stints in Gloucestershire, Kidderminster and Derby before taking on the mantle at Buckatree Hall back in 2004. Rose has been Head Chef at Buckatree Hall for 13 years.
Recently Rose and I were completing an article for a ‘Chef’s Feature’ in an industry magazine which I thought would be good to share with you all.
What do you look for when creating a new dish or menu?
Whilst the obvious answer has to be seasonality the reality is somewhat different. My menus are put together by taking into account our customer base, the abilities and time constraints that my team has to work within, and, more so now than ever before, costs. The cost of food has gone up dramatically over the past 12 months. Even less popular cuts of meat or fish have in some cases gone up by 100%. It is not always feasible to pass on all of the increase to the end user, our customer. This means we have to be even more creative and, in some cases, set trends rather than follow them.
What is proving to be the most popular dish on your menu at the moment?
We have just introduced two new summer salads which both have beetroot as a central ingredient. I love beetroot, not just the taste but the vibrant colour it adds to any dish. Both salads, one with Mackerel and one with Goats Cheese have been extremely popular with our guests.
You’re sharing a recipe today, why did you choose this one?
As I said earlier, sometimes you have to set trends and not just follow them. I cooked my Apple and Stilton Crème Brule for my Head Chef at Bottley Park in Southampton nearly 30 years ago. At the time it was very innovative and nobody was doing a dish quite like it. Today it is just as popular and makes an appearance on the menu here at Buckatree Hall from time to time.
Who, dead or alive, would you love to cook for and what would you serve?
My dad. I miss him very much. I would cook him belly pork with a Caribbean twist. We would chat for hours and he would, hopefully, be proud of what his daughter has achieved.
Please do check back next month for more stories from the ‘Rose Garden’