Ian Swainson, head chef, The Pass, South Lodge, near Horsham talks food and art

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Nick Mosley speaks to talented head chef Ian Swainson of The Pass at South Lodge about his art-inspired dishes.

What’s your professional background?
I started my career at Bournemouth College, getting some very good work experiences in France at both one and two Michelin star establishments. That followed with positions at Chez Nico 90 Park Lane, Chewton Glenn Hotel, , L’Ortolan and La Becasse before getting my first head chef job at Seaham Hall in Sunderland. After that I jointed The Samling Hotel in Windermere as head chef, where I went on to achieve 3 AA rosettes and a Michelin star, holding it for 3 successive years. I left the Samling at the end of 2015 and took up the position of head chef at The Pass in April of last year.

What’s the concept behind The Pass?
The restaurant is very much based on an artistic ethos, heavily influenced by surrealism, with a tasting menu only policy. The food is modern, with emphasis on fine dining with a lighter approach. We design our dishes with a story, using colour and drama to produce dishes with personality that are delicious whilst evoking emotion to the eye and mind.

Are seasonality and local sourcing a consideration at The Pass?
Our menus are written around the seasons and what great produce is available. It allows us to create a well-balanced meal, which flows from dish to dish.
We are not obsessed by the idea of locality, but more the product itself. Of course, it’s our duty to look to local suppliers first, but the product needs to be the best we can find. That said, it’s very important to us to utilise the kitchen garden here at South Lodge. You’ll find all through our menu. We also like to forage allowing us to be completely seasonal. You could say, getting the best out of the earth as well as the sea.

Do the rest of the kitchen team have a say in the menu design?
I really try to allow all the members of the team to be involved with the development of dishes, even if it is just getting them to taste the individual flavours. We also move the chefs around onto different sections, which keeps the guys fresh and learning. The fact that the restaurant is situated in the kitchen makes a big difference as well, because we get the feedback first hand and see the excitement on the guests faces when they receive each course.

Why do you think you have so much repeat custom at The Pass?
With an always evolving menu, we give the guests plenty of new dishes to try. I think that the guests come back for the whole experiential part of the interactive dining experience, as much as our food and great service.

Other than South Lodge, which chefs do you admire in Sussex?
For me the best restaurant in Sussex is the Little Fish Market in Hove. Chef Duncan Ray is a fantastic cook with a great palate. He has such a delicate touch, cooking fish to perfection. I also think Johnny Stanford at Pascere on Duke Street in Brighton. He’s already had two amazing reviews after only a very short time of being open.

The Pass, South Lodge Hotel, Brighton Road, Lower Beeding, Horsham RH13 6PS
01403 891711 • www.exclusive.co.uk

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