Scott Paton’s passion for food is both inspiring and commendable. Having developed a love for cooking at the tender age of 5, Scott worked his way up through the ranks from Kitchen Porter to Sous Chef, before joining The Horn of Plenty as Head Chef in 2011. As an advocate of homegrown ingredients and a strong supporter of local produce, Scott creates seasonal dishes that tempt the senses: visually stunning, and exciting to taste.
Over the next 5 years, we want to become one of the Top 100 Restaurants in the UK, with a reputation for everything from canapés to fantastic main courses, to afternoon teas. We want to get as close to perfection as we can.
Our long term ambition is to take a superb reputation, and to drive it on to a whole new level: outstanding food served in a relaxed, informal environment, with a focus on warm, friendly, attentive service and wonderful views.
This place has such a rich food history, which goes back over 40 years – founder Sonia Stevenson was the first British woman to be awarded a Michelin star. It’s fantastic that The Horn is up there with the big boys in the South West.
Prior to The Horn, I was at The Jack in the Green at Rockbeare, near Exeter, for 9 years. I worked my way up from washing dishes to Sous Chef. I guess it is pretty rare to have stayed in one place for so long.
I joined The Horn of Plenty in August 2011, and taking up the reins here has been the highlight of my career so far. I lead a team of 6 young, ambitious and incredibly talented chefs – it gives me a real buzz to nurture young talent.
I wouldn’t say my food has a specific style, it’s not British, or French. My food is simply the food of Scott Paton at The Horn of Plenty. My food and my menus have been designed around the region, the location and the clientele. In terms of a signature dish, I want to make sure that my food is always changing and moving with the times. Right now, some of my favourite dishes are a starter of Exmouth crab & prawn salad with curry mayonnaise, cardamom & lime, followed by a main course of Rump of Warrens native breed lamb with peas, asparagus & truffle jus. I’m also very proud of my Rhubarb meringue tart with gingerbread ice cream & poached rhubarb.
We’re on an ongoing journey, having created a new kitchen garden in 2012. We’ve had mixed success – we had a great year in 2013, but in 2014 much of the produce was devoured by rabbits and pheasants! But we’re learning from our mistakes, and hopeful of great thing going forward.
We grow a fair bit of our own fruit and veg, plus some produce that’s hard to get hold of, such as purple carrots, round carrots, white strawberries and microherbs.
We’re never going to be self sufficient, but it’s a great feeling to be cooking with freshly picked produce from our own garden, and it’s just so much more flavoursome when it’s truly fresh.
I think creativity is hugely important, but I’m never creative when I’m busy. I find I have my best ideas when I’m relaxing, often when I’m asleep. I often dream about what food should look like, then match flavours to suit. That’s kind of against the rule – most chefs start out with the flavours, then focus on making the dish look good. Having said that, here at The Horn, we’re not about whacky food or clever food. We’re about taking the traditional and bringing it bang up to date with a touch of “wow”!
My first experience of cooking was when I was 5, we had a French breakfast day in school where we made baguettes and hot chocolate. I have always loved cooking and as a kid I often made my family smile with my strange concoctions.
I was initially inspired to be a chef by the adrenaline of a busy service, by the creativity and the buzz that came out of it. I guess that’s still the case today, but it’s the combination of both creativity and discipline that drives me. That, and the fact that you’re always learning, you never stand still. The thing I like least is having a quiet restaurant. I hate being bored!
I’ve won some great accolades that I’m really proud of. In 2008 I won ‘Dessert of the Year’ from the Association of Pastry Chefs, and in 2009 I won South West ‘Chef of the Year’ in the young professional class. In 2012, I was awarded ‘Culinary Expertise South West Chef of the Year’ by Exeter and Heart of Devon Hotels and Restaurant Association. But best of all was The Horn being awarded ‘Best Fine Dining Restaurant’ in the 2012 Food and Drink Devon Awards, then ” Small Hotel of the Year” in the 2014 Devon Tourism Awards
In terms of where I get my inspiration, there have been a couple of chefs who have really influenced me. Pierre Herme is a fabulous pastry chef, who I was fortunate enough to work with for a couple of days. He’s known as the Picasso of Pastry, he’s the guy who brought pastry bang up to date.
I’ve also been hugely impressed by Tom Kerridge at The Hand and Flowers in Marlow. For me, he’s re-written the fine dining rule book. He’s been awarded 2 Michelin stars, but there’s no white linen in the restaurant, no smartly uniformed staff, just a quirky little pub with wonky tables and a fantastic atmosphere, but he’s managed to capture the essence of his pub in his food.
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