A new head chef is captivating the kitchen at Eldr Roof Garden at Pantechnicon with an explosion of ideas, dishes, techniques and flavours. Jenny Warner hails from Finland and she’s created a seasonal menu that’s inspired by the homely classics of her childhood along with the produce, methods and traditions of her homeland. Read our interview with Jenny to discover more about her career, inspirations, predictions for foodie trends, and top tips for budding chefs.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your career so far.
I originally came to England for just one year of work experience after finishing college in Finland. But met my future husband and here I am still, 18 years later. I’ve trained under Aiden Byrne for several years, including at The Dorchester, Danesfield House and The Church Green. Most recently before taking over Eldr, I was Head Chef at The Thomas Cubitt in Belgravia.
Do you remember when / where / how you discovered not only your love for cooking but also your talent? Please tell us more.
I’ve had a love for food and cooking for as long as I can remember. Cooking with my mum at an early age, we used to grow our veg in the summer and we used to go berry and mushroom picking in the woods. Fishing and hunting with my dad have also got me to respect nature and understand the seasons.
On a recent trip home, you unearthed some home economics textbooks your mother had inherited – dating back to 1913 – how important are a heritage to your cooking style and menu influences?
I get a lot of inspiration and ideas from looking back at what my mum would cook or school dinners, much more than following current trends. I love a dish with a background story.
Who or what are other key influences on your culinary creations?
The starting point to creating a dish or a menu is the best product for the season we are in, also looking at what wild herbs, berries and mushrooms are available, and if non, we explore what preserves we have from a previous season. The team of chefs we have come from every corner of the world and they all bring so much to the table, different views and ideas, it’s the most incredible source of information and inspiration. The finalised dish is a creation influenced and co-created with the team.
Eldr Roof Garden is known for its Nordic cooking styles using prime British ingredients, please share with us how you combine the two to create unique and delicious dishes. And what is your favourite creation to date?
Because of the cold weather for large parts of the year in the Nordics, we only have a few months each year to grow and harvest food, so we try to preserve as much as we can for the winter months. We apply the same idea at Eldr, preserving a British ingredient at its prime and then using them throughout the winter. For example the candied rosehips we are using on our smoked apple dessert.
Smoking, cooking over fire, pickling, curing are all methods we use. Our cured halibut is made using a traditional Smoking, cooking over a fire, pickling, curing is all methods we use. Our cured halibut is made using a traditional Gravad Lax recipe but instead of using salmon, we use halibut, line-caught of the British coast. The cured halibut is then served with pickled cucumber, skyr and smoked honey which is a flavour combination inspired by the time Finland was part of Russia. My favourite creation to date is a refined version of a rustic homely fish soup. Rather than boiling all the ingredients together, each element is prepared separately before being brought together. It still tastes like my mums fish soup but much more delicate and refined in presentation.
For those who have not yet visited, how would you describe the vibe at Eldr?
The vibe is cool and chic, but homely and cosy at the same time.
Belgravia is Eldr’s home suburb, there is a certain prestige associated with this fine London location. Does this create even more pressure on you and your team to deliver?
It keeps the team motivated, keeps us on our toes. It’s a really lovely part of London.
The hospitality industry has experienced a turbulent time in recent years, what were the key response strategies that enabled businesses within the sector to survive?
A lot of restaurants did ‘cook at home meal kits and deliveries. It’s so nice to see people eating out again, the hospitality industry will flourish again soon.
And what are your predictions for foodie trends in the coming years?
Sustainability and zero waste- I hope that becomes the new norm instead of just being a trend.
Please share any top tips you have for a young chef starting his/her career.
Find a friendly kitchen to work in, don’t accept any bullying, it iFind a friendly kitchen to work in, don’t accept any bullying, it is not the norm anymore. Find a chef/mentor who is willing to teach and develop you, then ask lots of questions and taste, taste, taste.
Luxury is an entirely subjective concept – what does it mean to you?
As a full-time worAs a full time working mum with two little kids, for me, luxury is a long night’s sleep or a glass of really nice wine.