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Meet the Man in Charge of the Kitchen at the World's Best Restaurant in Cumbria

Chef Simon Rogan & Paul Burgalieres in the L'Enclume Kitchen. Image: Cristain Barnett Photography
Eat and Drink
February 2024
Reading time 3 Minutes

Paul Burgalières is Executive Chef at the three Michelin-star restaurant L'Enclume

In the tiny Cumbrian village of Cartmel, in a former blacksmith's workshop dating back to the 13th century, you'll find L'Enclume: officially ranked as the best restaurant in the world.

Simon Rogan’s three Michelin-starred restaurant L'Enclume has been awarded the top ranking in La Liste 2024, sharing the number one spot worldwide with six other restaurants in La Liste’s Top 1000 Restaurants. This marks the first time a UK chef has ever achieved this accolade in the eight years since La Liste launched.

L’Enclume opened in 2002, with a farm-to-table philosophy at its core and a focus on the ingredients grown at Simon’s nearby farm. Cartmel is now home to several other of Simon’s ventures, including Rogan & Co, Aulis, various accommodation options and a shop, which is housed in a medieval gatehouse in the heart of the village. 

It’s L’Enclume however which is the star of the show, and at the helm in the kitchen is French chef Paul Burgalières, Simon’s exec chef for the North of England. Born in Limoges in the west of France, he’s come a long way to reach the top of his game among the narrow streets of Cartmel village. We spoke to Paul to find out more about his culinary journey – and just what it takes to stay at the top. 

Nina Claridge Photography

Tell us about your background. How did you come to L’Enclume?
I started my culinary journey training at Lycée Hôtelier de La Rochelle. After graduating, I worked with Michel Trama in Puymirol for a year and did a season with Michel Rochedy in Courchevel. In 2011, I made the move to London to work as a chef de partie at L’Atelier Robuchon before landing a job at three-Michelin star Geranium in Copenhagen (number one in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022), where I worked my way up from chef de partie to assistant Head Chef in just two years. It was there, under chef Rasmus Kofoed, that I learned to appreciate the role of nature in gastronomy. In 2017, my wife suggested making the move back to the UK. Having previously worked in London, I wanted to settle outside the capital, so when the opportunity to apply for the Head Chef position at L’Enclume arose, I jumped at it.

Tell us about your typical work day. 
Usually, the working day starts with a quick visit to Our Farm, Simon’s farm in the Cartmel Valley, to have a chat with John Rowlands the farm manager, check on the produce available and what’s coming up. I’ll also have a catch up with Liam Fitzpatrick, who is the Our Farm head chef. He’s responsible for creating pickles, preserves, condiments etc from any surplus crops that we can’t use in the restaurants, which are then sold through Our Shop in Cartmel or online, or are used in our Home By Simon Rogan ‘at home’ meals.

Then it’s back to L’Enclume for a quick briefing with the senior members of the front and back of house teams, followed by a meeting with the development chef team who look after Aulis. I’ll head over to Rogan & Co, our neighbourhood restaurant in the village, to check in with the team there and depending on timings, I might head up to Henrock at Linthwaite House to make sure they have everything they need. After all that, prep continues for lunch, with service beginning at 12pm. During service I usually stand at the pass, plating and making sure that each dish going out is of the quality and standard that we want. When lunch is over, we have a bit of a wash down and look at areas for improvement or dish development, and then start the prep process for dinner. Prior to dinner we all eat together and then have a quick briefing before heading into service. 

How much time do you spend on the farm?
I do make a point of popping to the farm nearly every day to speak with John, to find out how things are progressing in terms of crop availability, what’s about to finish, what’s about to become available and how long for. It’s an essential part of planning our menus and is essential for our efforts to become fully zero waste.

Before each season begins, we work together to decide what to grow. It’s a collaborative process where John or the growers suggest new varieties that they are interested to trial and where Simon, the kitchen team and I make requests for plants or specific-sized flowers or shoots. Not only is it the source of most of our produce but it’s where we find our inspiration, so it’s vital for me and my team to visit as often as possible.

All members of the kitchen team get involved with major planting as and when needed and also get stuck in when it comes to harvesting. There’s always a lot to do and the farm team are really appreciative of any help they can get. 

How long does it normally take from having the idea, to getting a new dish on the menu? 
Developing new dish concepts is part and parcel of the job. It’s something that I think about all the time. I might be out and about, and an idea comes into my head, or I might taste something that immediately grabs my attention in terms of flavour profile or texture. It’s something that you can’t really ever switch off from, so it’s actually pretty difficult to quantify in terms of time.

I’m inspired by the seasons, especially by what’s grown by John and his team, so I think ahead to what is about to reach its prime. We try to grow within set time frames but often the Cumbrian weather has other ideas. Using only the best produce means that there has to be an element of change within the menu, we have to adapt when we have a surplus or a fallow period. However, the preserves, ferments and oils that Liam produces are crucial for this exact reason. 

Once I have an idea, I work with Simon and the team at Aulis Cartmel, our development kitchen and chef’s table just next door to L’Enclume to test and retest. When we’re ready, we usually serve it to our guests at Aulis, to get valuable feedback and to give them exclusive access to a dish that’s not even on the menu yet. 

‘All members of the kitchen team get involved with major planting as and when needed and also get stuck in when it comes to harvesting’

Your favourite L’Enclume dish ever?
Pink Fir Apple potatoes cooked in chicken fat and crisp skin, pickled walnut, and Park House cheddar. It’s a very humble dish, but a flavour bomb, tiny new potatoes need little cooking and taste amazing, cheese sauce gives a rich flavour, which is really well balanced with the burnt onion, and the pickled walnut brings everything together.

Tell us about gaining three Michelin stars – what did it mean to you personally, and to the team?
I was, and am so happy for Simon. It’s something that he has wanted for so long and I truly think he deserves it. It’s also an incredible achievement for our whole team and is recognition of everything we’ve been working towards. It’s such an amazing feeling to achieve an accolade like that, especially as there are so few restaurants in the UK with three stars, and to be the first in the North of England. The team are really excited to see what 2024 will bring, especially as 2023 was a momentous year for all sorts of reasons, including L’Enclume being listed as number one in the world in La Liste, an incredible achievement as the only UK restaurant to achieve that accolade.

How do you cope with the pressure that comes with this kind of achievement? 
I like to spend time with my family, my wife and I have a young son, so being together is very important. We have a camper van, so we load it up when I’m off and go exploring the different parts of The Lakes. When I’m not with my family or socialising with friends, then I’m usually either kite surfing off the Cumbrian coast, rock climbing or out on my road bike traversing the high mountain passes, though they’re quite gentle by French standards…

The best part of your job?
Working with people who want to be the best they can possibly be. People who know the meaning of hard work and are aware that maximum effort brings results. It’s inspiring!

The most challenging part?
The challenge is to constantly evolve, to keep pushing and learn along the way and to take the team with you on that journey. You’re only as strong as the sum total of those that work with you, so it’s making sure absolutely everyone understands what they need to do and also has the skills and knowledge to be able to deliver their best.

I guess one of the other significant challenges is using ingredients from the UK. To find herbs and flowers that we can grow, or forageable ingredients that we can gather that will deliver specific flavour profiles without us having to resort to importing ingredients from the other side of the world. Sustainability is hugely important to us and as a result we ensure that we go the extra mile to recreate specific flavours without relying on imports, whether that’s acidity you would find in lemons or the or umami profiles you would find in miso. It takes a fair amount of experimentation and a very talented growing team to be able to deliver what’s needed, but they pull it out of the bag consistently.

Quick-Fire Questions

Tell us one of your favourite local places to eat/drink?
Chesters by the River, Skelwith Bridge, Ambleside – delicious food with a great family walk from the door into Elterwater, along the river and then into the Langdale Valley. Homeground coffee + kitchen in Windermere village is a really good place to grab breakfast and coffee on a day off before heading off into the fells, and The Yan at Broadrayne, Grasmere, is great for informal bistro suppers with the whole family.

An item you couldn’t live without.
Really good charcuterie and fresh fruit.

Best snack for a long journey.
Simple but really tasty – charcuterie, freshly baked sourdough bread and fruit.

Your go-to lazy supper.
A freshly made pizza, cooked in a wood-fired oven.

Yorkshire puddings on Christmas dinner – yes or no?
I’m not falling for that, so I’m staying neutral.

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