Jason Littlejohns talks about his ‘amazing job’ as head chef
These include Macdonald Craxton Wood Hotel & Spa, Macdonald Portal Hotel, Golf & Spa and the Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa where he is mainly based.
We caught up with Jason during his busy schedule and asked him a few questions about his new role and views on cheffing in general . . .
How do you divide your time between the six Macdonald properties in the North West?
My time is spent predominantly at Manchester and is then split quite evenly across the rest of the properties depending on their particular requirements during the month. I catch up with the teams each Friday on a weekly call and I’m in regular contact to ensure everything is running smoothly. If an important event comes up, such as a launch party, I’ll make sure I’m available to assist at each location with the direction of the catering.
You said after your appointment you wanted to create menus that will “inspire guests, visitors and locals alike” – how far has this goal been achieved?
We’ve made changes to a lot of our menus and there has been a lot of positive feedback as a result. As trends and consumer demand continually change, it is an ongoing process but I’m happy with where we are and the direction in which we’re going. I’m very much looking forward to the next 12 to 18 months with Macdonald Hotels & Resorts as I think the future is extremely bright regarding food!
Have you been influenced by the current consumer trend towards emphasis on healthy eating?
Very much so, our breakfast and lunch concepts have been carefully tailored to accommodate the health conscious consumer. Our breakfast offering is focused on a base of fruits, nuts, seeds and berries and our lunch menu encompasses a range of salads and simple cooked foods, such as steamed fish and greens, poached meats etc.
Being based in Manchester, why do you think the city has been without a Michelin-starred restaurant since The French at The Midland more than 40 years ago?
I don’t think there is a simple answer to that or a really viable reason. Over the past 40 years there have been some truly outstanding restaurants and chefs within Manchester, but for whatever reason none have been deemed up to Michelin standard. Simon Rogan for example has stars on L’Enclume and Claridges, but isn’t seen as up to the mark for the French.
What motivated/inspired you to become a chef?
It was the only thing I wanted to do when I was growing up. A lot of my childhood was spent in the kitchen at home baking with my mother – who is still a fantastic cook at the age of 70! I feel being a chef is a calling rather than a career choice. Most chefs who make any sort of impression are very driven, incredibly loyal to the trade and can’t see themselves in any other career, despite the long hours, and that really rings true to me. It is still to this day an amazing job, I feel I face new challenges every day which I find incredibly fulfilling.
Who are the chefs you admire most?
It has to be Michel Roux Jr, he has such a broad range of specialisms and he delivers food of such an amazing standard. I’ve also always liked Marco Pierre White, as he has been one of the most relevant chefs during my time in the industry and shows the passion only chefs would really understand.
More currently, I’ve been impressed by chefs such as Tom Kerridge, Nathan Outlaw and Angela Hartnett. I feel they’re taking cooking and food to the next level.
What advice would you give a young person starting out on a catering career today?
Go for it and be prepared to give it everything. Be willing to put in 100% and it will reward you more than you thought any job could. It isn’t a Monday to Friday 9 to 5 job and it never will be, but if it is your calling you’ll find it harder to leave than you will to stay.
And your favourite meal is . . . ?
I love really good fish and shellfish done simply. Scallops, halibut and seabass are some of my favourites and you can’t beat a great steak – especially cooked in a Josper and paired with a good glass of red wine. A really well made Tiramisu will always be a weakness of mine and who doesn’t love popping home for an old fashioned homemade roast dinner?