Since childhood, John Duffin has always been interested in cooking and food. Although only 32 years old now, he has worked in some of the best kitchens, under some of the most highly regarded chefs in the UK.
Three years ago, he opened his very own restaurant on his family farm, John’s House, which was awarded a Michelin star only nine months after the restaurant opened.
Aged just 21, John took up a position as chef de partie at the one michelin star Fischer’s at Baslow Hall under Head Chef Rupert Rowley. Keen to develop his career and technique further, he moved to London in 2009 to work under Gary Rhodes at the one michelin star Rhodes W1 located at the Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch.
Eager for even more experience, he started working under Claude Bosi at the two michelin star Hibiscus, Mayfair. A brief spell under Marcus Wareing at his acclaimed two michelin star restaurant at The Berkeley followed. John then began working under Agnar Sverrisson at the one michelin star Texture in Marble Arch, after which he went on to work under the renowned Simon Rogan at his London pop-up restaurant Roganic!
John’s passion for high quality, local, seasonal produce brought him back to his roots in 2014 when he opened his first restaurant, John’s House, on the family farm in Mountsorrel, Leicestershire. Bringing together all of his experience at the head of his own restaurant the menu at John’s House.
We caught up with John to find out a bit more about him and to see if we could get a recipe from him for our readers:
Which section of the kitchen do you most enjoy working in and why?
“That would have to be the meat section: butchery is something I have always had an interest in, so due to all the meat that we use at John’s House being from the family farm, I have complete control of the process. From animal selection to butchery, to the creation of the dish itself.”
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
“I think I most enjoy now the freedom I have to create dishes and explore new flavours & textures to try and create an amazing taste experience for customers.”
How would you summarise your cooking style in one or two sentences?
“I find it difficult to summarise my style as it is still early days for the restaurant, but we are producing new, exciting, modern & British food.”
(We thought we might include some of the comments from customer’s here – it’s sometimes difficult to appreciate how great your own work is.)
“Love this restaurant. Am local of Mountsorrel and very proud that we have a Michelin star restaurant on our doorstep. What a coue! The food is obviously fab and would encourage the experience/taster menu. The setting is utterly unique with intimate and cosy dining rooms and log fire in winter. The local farm meats are amazing and John Duffin is a genius. I have seen him ragging around the local roads in one if Stonehurst’s vintage cars and its hysterical! Good work!”
“Took a friend for lunch-she was bowled over. Everything was wonderful, couldn’t fault anything. The food was delicious and beautifully presented, the staff very attentive but not intrusive and we were even invited to look around the new arrivals in the farm. A great day out.”
Have you or your restaurant won any awards or received any notable accolades?
“We were awarded our first Michelin star nine months after opening & we also won Leicestershire restaurant of the year 2016.”
In terms of produce, what do you like most about the local area?
“The meat that we produce here on the farm: my brother Tom is the farmer who rears our animals. We are also lucky to have such fantastic cheese and game in Leicestershire that I can incorporate into our dishes.”
How do you go about choosing suppliers?
“We try and support local businesses as much as we can but we can but we also make sure we are using the best quality produce. That is our main priority.”
As a chef, what is your favourite time of the year and why?
“The spring – the food gets lighter and fresher as soon as the spring produce becomes available to us.”
What is your favourite seasonal ingredient? How do you like to use it?
“I think it would be asparagus: I use it in many different ways at the restaurant but my favourite has to be grilled simply with lemon & butter.”
In a few words, how would you define good food?
“Anything fresh, seasonal and tasty!”
Please can you provide a cooking tip for our readers?
“Always use ingredients when they are in season for the best flavours & a sharp knife always helps!”
What’s your most memorable cooking experience?
“Cooking by candlelight at Roganic due to a powercut – it really wasn’t as romantic as it sounds!”
What are your hopes for the coming year?
“I just hope that the restaurant continues to grow and our customers keep enjoying the food.”
To be a good chef, you need to be…
Focused, passionate and hardworking!
John kindly provided us with one of his fantastic recipes: Bradgate Park Fallow Deer, Smoked Beetroot, Quince & Chocolate:
Venison – 4 x 150g loins of venison seasoned with salt and pepper
Quince – 2 x ripe Quince, zest of 1 lemon, zest of 1 orange, 500ml sugar syrup, 1 cinnamon.
Picked Beetroot – 2 red beetroot, 50g sherry vinegar, zest of 1 lemon and 50g brown sugar.
Savoy Cabbage – 1 x Savoy cabbage, 50g butter and salt & pepper.
Chocolate Ganache – 50g dark chocolate 70%, 50ml double cream and 1tbsp raspberry vinegar.
Smoked Beetroot Sauce – 2 large red beetroot, 40g sugar, 25ml raspberry vinegar and hay for smoking.
Dice the beetroots into 1cm dice, lay them on a perforated tray with another deep tray underneath and put two handfuls of nice hay in the bottom tray.
(Have a roll of cling film ready)
Light the hay until it has a good flame (in the garden preferably) then put the tray of beetroot on top and cover with the cling film.
Leave this to smoke for one hour, then put the smoked beets through a juicer and add the sugar & vinegar and reduce until you have a shiny sweet & sour sauce.
Make a simple sugar syrup with equal quantities of sugar and water then add the cinnamon & zests. Peel & quarter the quince then gently poach until soft. Leave to cool in the liquid.
Peel the beets and boil in salted water for half an hour until just cooked then leave to cool. In a separate pan, add the vinegar, sugar and lemon. When the beets are cool, thinly slice and add to the sugar & vinegar mix and leave to pickle.
Remove the core from the cabbage and separate into individual leaves, discard the very dark outer leaves. Cook the leaves in salted boiling water until well cooked, strain and chill in iced water.
Squeeze out as much water as possible, chop the cabbage and leave to one side.
Bring the cream up to the boil and pour over the chocolate. Whisk until all the chocolate has melted, add a pinch of salt and vinegar and leave in the fridge to set.
Take the venison out of the fridge one hour before you plan to cook it.
Season with salt and pepper and roast in a hot pan with oil and butter.
When cooked how you like it, leave covered in a warm place for 15 mins to rest.
reheat the cabbage in a pan with the butter, salt & pepper.
Reheat the quince in the syrup.
Gently warm the beetroot in the pickling mixture.
When the deer is well rested, slice thinly and arrange on four plates. Make a quenelle of the cabbage mixture, add the poached quince to the plate along with the sliced pickled beetroot.
To one side of the plate add the quenelle of the chocolate ganache.
Reheat the smoked beetroot sauce and add to the plate.
Garnish with beetroot leaves and serve.