This month, we took time out to speak to our Director of Excellence here at Bowcliffe. And Simon Crannage is certainly a man with big plans, as he works towards Yorkshire and UK domination for the beautiful Estate. We talked to Simon about his history as a multi award-winning chef, his daily balancing act overseeing every inch of Bowcliffe’s event and business spaces and why he believes there are simply not enough hours in the day…
Tell us a little about your background, where were you born, where have you worked previously and what does your life and career history look like?
I was born in Dewsbury and then moved to Leeds. Growing up I was lucky enough to travel abroad with my father’s work, and when I was very young I lived in Dubai and went to school in Oman. I returned to Yorkshire in my teens and finished school back here. I chose a career as a chef and moved out of the family home to do a scholarship with Trust House Forte group at the Queens Hotel, Leeds, living at the very top of this grand hotel for four years! From there I moved around the country working in various hotels and restaurants from Yorkshire to the Cotswolds, Jersey to the Lake District and Oxford. Then the news came that my partner Helen and I were expecting twins while we were in Oxford, so we built a plan to return to our home in North Yorkshire.
I got the position of head chef at Swinton Park in the Dales and bought a house in a little village called Pickhill. Whilst at Swinton I built the reputation of the food offering in Samuel’s restaurant – holding 3 rosettes for my whole tenure, a successful cookery school and the Bivouac, a very popular glamping site with tree lodges and yurts. I was part of the team who designed and built the most energy efficient kitchen in the North of England and designed the food offering around wellness and the trend of small plate dining.
You’ve previously worked as a chef in some pretty impressive restaurants – how does it feel to be the man behind the desk orchestrating the bigger picture rather than in the kitchen at the coalface?
I loved my cheffing days, I’m a very creative person and cooking was my hobby as well as my pay cheque, but it was a natural progression to move into a more managerial role. I do think running a kitchen has a best before date! I’m enjoying putting lessons learnt running teams back of house into a more global role, and a big part of my role here is all about food and the service.
Tell us about a typical day in the life of Simon Crannage…
Generally I’m up at 6am for the news and fresh coffee before making sure Helen and the kids have everything they need for the day ahead. I get into Bowcliffe by 7.45am and have a quick walk around the grounds and house to check all is well and looking as it should, then it’s onto my list! I draw up a hit list of the day and go through my emails.
By 8.30am I make sure the kitchen has everything it needs for the first service of the day and have a chat with Andy (Bowcliffe’s Executive Chef) about specials for the Driver’s Club. 10am is our daily meeting with the team; getting everyone together is integral as we all have very different departments to run, it’s vital to hear everyone’s plan.
I then check the Drivers Club is ready for lunch and the Bowcliffe ‘toys’ are out for people to admire on the terrace (the plane, milk float, ice cream tricycle etc.).
After lunch service I usually have meetings with guests and the team or I spend time planning new events – including some exciting foodie events planned for later this year.
If there are no events on I head home to take the kids to various sport or music lessons – my son plays football for Bedale and my daughter is doing very well in her gymnastics and piano.
By 8pm its home to Helen and I usually cook dinner (you’ve got to keep your hand in!) If I’m lucky and in good time I may even, make the pub!
What attracted you to the role at Bowcliffe?
If you’ve visited Bowcliffe you’d probably say that’s obvious! After working for the last 20(ish) years in some amazing and treasured houses and grounds, Bowcliffe still has me saying “WOW” at every turn – it’s a great feeling to be excited to get in the car and arrive here and I’m relishing the opportunity of working with the team – I’m sure every day will have something different to focus on.
Where in the world do you believe currently offers the best standard of hospitality?
America gives great service and the attention to detail in customer facing roles is exemplary. It’s the little things they add such as personalisation and name recognition, they manage this without being overbearing and I think that’s key. Not many people know this but Disney have the World’s best customer service training, go Mickey!
Bowcliffe’s Executive Chef, Andy Lawson, is producing some fairly impressive food, how will you be working alongside him to make sure the culinary offering at Bowcliffe is always exceptional?
If you’ve eaten in the Drivers’ Club or been lucky enough to dine at a Bowcliffe event then you’ll know that executive chef Andy doesn’t need much help from me. That said, I think he is pleased for me to be around for any guidance and I do help when needed. I always have my chef’s whites and apron in the car, just in case!
What do you believe your greatest achievement has been, both career wise and personally?
My greatest achievement in my personal life has to be my family and friends, keeping both happy whilst working in the hospitality trade. The unsociable, long hours make maintaining work/life balance tricky so I should have a medal for it! In my career, I have won many local and national awards, getting a place in the Times top 100 restaurants for Samuels at Swinton Park made my day, but being a proud Yorkshire man and winning Yorkshire Life ‘Chef of the Year’ back in 2011 was brilliant.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt whist working in hospitality and events?
The biggest lesson I have learned is to respect the people you employ and give them the training and skills they require to do the tasks you ask of them, and, don’t rush to change anything, observe and learn first.
Fill in the missing word…
In hospitality, there are too many opportunities for excellence and too few hours in the day!
If you were to draw a pyramid of service priorities, what, in your mind, would go right at the top?
Our people would go at the very top, without them there is no service and no hospitality.
What is your current favourite dish on the Drivers’ Club menu?
I’m quite partial to the Best of British Board.
Favourite part of the Bowcliffe Estate, why?
I do love the grounds; the view from the Wing back to the Hall in the sunshine is truly world class.
When you’re not working, where are we likely to find you?
Time off is generally taken up with days out around the Dales, entertaining at home and out with friends and family. I like to do a bit of gardening too; we grow a lot food at home… it’s all about the food!
Tell us three things we would never know about you…
- I was a finalist on the ITV show, Britain’s Best Dish.
- I’m a Leeds United fan.
- I was interviewed at St James Palace for the role of private chef for Charles and Diana (I turned it down!).
What are you hoping to change or achieve in your role at Bowcliffe Hall?
The things I want to achieve in my role at Bowcliffe are simple; look after the place, look after its staff and the rest of the magic should come naturally – making it the most sought after members’ club and events space in Britain.
Want to find out more or enquire about holding your event at Bowcliffe? Get in touch with the events team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.