Chef profile: Richard Mann, head chef at Camellia Restaurant, South Lodge

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Nick Mosley chats to Richard Mann

What’s your professional background?
My background is predominately hotel based, and local to Sussex where I was born and bred. I began as a commis at the Goodwood Park Hotel, before moving with the head chef Matthew Budden to The Felbridge Hotel and Spa, before taking the chance to work with Matt Gillan when he was here at our other South Lodge restaurant, The Pass. I’ve spent the majority of my time at South Lodge Hotel, where I’ve now been head chef of the Camellia for almost three years, taking over from Steven Edwards.

How would you describe the Camellia?
The Camellia is the main restaurant here at the hotel, and as such there is a certain amount of expectation I have to be aware of when creating the menus. The food has to be welcoming and recognisable, but most importantly delicious. I think its important not to get too carried away with the ingredients, so less is most definitely more. For me its about elevating the familiar to a whole new level, by using different techniques, interesting flavour pairings and using secondary cuts of meat.

How do you design your menus?
Its important for my menus to have a good balance between meat, fish and vegetarian options. We have a lunch menu which has at least one of each as an option for starters and mains and I always make sure there are two vegetarian starters and mains on the a la carte menu too. I generally start with the protein or main vegetable element and build my dishes around that. Choice is important for me, as a diner I like to go out to eat and be presented with a varied, exciting menu. I like to think that’s exactly what is on offer in the Camellia.

Is locality and seasonality important to your menu?
As a chef there is nothing more exciting than looking forward to the next ingredient that is coming in to season and working to create something fresh and interesting and bang on in terms of flavour. We’re lucky that we have a walled garden here at South Lodge and so have fantastic ingredients throughout the year. That’s not to say that I won’t use anything beyond the realms of Sussex though. I love working with and supporting local suppliers, but If I can get a better quality ingredient from further afield then I will happily do that. I have a responsibility to be flexible in sourcing the very best ingredients. Quality and flavour will always shine through.

What makes your guests come back for more?
Primarily the food, but also the service and environment. It’s the whole package really. Dropping the ball with one will be detrimental to the other, so both the front and back of house guys have to be on top of their game at all times. As the food offering changes quite regularly, I like to think that people come back to see what else we have come up with: that they’ve had such a good experience the last time, they can’t wait to have it again.

What other Sussex restaurants and chefs do you admire?
Brighton has a huge amount of talent on the go at the moment. Matt Gillan, Steve Edwards and Johnny Stanford have all come from the South Lodge fold. You also can’t go without mentioning Michael Bremner at 64 Degrees, the Little Fish Market, The Set and The Salt Room. And that’s all within a two mile radius of each other. The food scene in Sussex as a whole is booming, and that can only be a good thing.

Camellia Restaurant

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