Clare Smyth on sustainability, success, and four years of Core

Clare Smyth needs little introduction. She has worked in top kitchens around the world under chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller, and Alain Ducasse. In 2017, she struck out on her own and opened her first solo venture, Core, in London’s Notting Hill. A year later, Clare was named World’s Best Female Chef at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards.

Now in its fourth year, Core continues to wow diners with inventive dishes that showcase carefully sourced British ingredients. We caught up with Clare to find out what challenges the industry is currently facing and what she has planned for the future.

After a year of uncertainty, it must feel incredible to be back in the restaurant, with guests in the dining room. How does it feel to be back in the kitchen?
It feels like being back home again. As someone who has been dedicated to being a chef my whole life it is my natural habitat!

Core turns four this year and has won numerous awards, from stars to rosettes, in that time. How do you measure your success?
For me it is seeing all of the smiling faces of our guests and to see them coming back time after time. Having so many regulars is a real pleasure and an honour to be a part of their lives.

What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the hospitality industry at the moment?
As well as still grappling with the daily challenges of COVID, we are facing difficulty finding enough trained professionals. This has been made even more difficult because of Brexit. We need to set up better schools in the UK to train the workforce that we need.

You grew up on a farm in Northern Ireland, so you know what it takes to get ingredients from field to plate. How do you champion sustainability at Core?
We work with mainly small British farmers and producers, often finding a way to use things in a way that benefits us both. For example, our lamb hogget and mutton dish allows us to use the whole flock which means that it is more sustainable for the farmer.

Your ‘potato and roe’ dish is probably the most famous dish on the menu. Is it still one of your favourites? Would you ever take it off?
I think that it will have to stay on the menu for some time as it is just so popular, and it is kind of the ultimate comfort food.

Which three ingredients do you always have in the kitchen?
Salt, vinegar, potatoes!

Core offers a fine dining experience that feels inclusive and unpretentious. Is it important to you that the menu, and ambience, are accessible to everyone?
Very much so, I want to engage with everyone from all walks of life and if it is their first time hopefully, they will fall in love with fine dining.

Do you think kitchen culture has improved in recent years? And is this why we’re seeing more women entering, and excelling in, the industry?
It has certainly improved over the last 10 to 15 years in a big way. We do see a lot more women both front of house and in the kitchen, but we still need more. To be honest, having more women has also helped to improve the culture.

What’s next for you, and Core?
We are opening in Sydney, Australia, very soon. The restaurant will be called Oncore.

When you’re not working, where do you like to dine out in London?
Bibendum, Scott’s, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, A Wong, and Trinity.

And when you have time to travel, where are your favourite foodie destinations?
It is California for me, I absolutely love the restaurants there. I am also a big fan of Spanish food and San Sebastian.

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Photo Credit: Core by Clare Smyth and Food Story Media Ltd.