New Head Chef is already part of the team
March 30 2011
Next month, Jesmond Dene House Hotel will promote sous chef Michael Penaluna to the coveted position of Head Chef when Pierre Rigothier, current holder, returns to his native France.
Michael, 29, who joined the hotel four years ago and quickly worked his way up to the number two position, developed his skills under Pierre's guidance. "Pierre opened my eyes to different techniques and styles of presentation," says Michael. "My ambition is to continue to improve standards so that Jesmond Dene House is associated with some of the best food in the north east."
Michael, who is from Newcastle, will build on Pierre's relationships with north-east suppliers to develop a more modern-British style of cooking. "Our suppliers are as passionate about food quality as we are," says Michael. "That's why we get the best." He is also a passionate believer that a restaurant kitchen is not a ‘one-man' show. "It's about team-work. Give credit where it's due, and you get the best out of the team. There's no more important part of my job than encouraging our young chefs to improve and raise their game."
General Manager Eric Kortenbach comments: "We're very pleased we've been able to promote from within. It gives the staff, and the hotel, continuity. Michael has benefited from Pierre's skills and expertise and will now develop these further, in his own style. It's an evolution, not a revolution."
Under Pierre's three-year tenure, the restaurant gained a third AA rosette plus the hotel became AA Hotel of the Year in 2008-09. Pierre's long-term plans, however, were to return to his home country, and to Paris where he learnt to cook. His technical skills have won him the highly regarded position of Head Chef at the Michelin-starred ‘Restaurant Hélène Darroz', run by one of France's most acclaimed female chefs. "Jesmond Dene House has been very important to me," he says. "It's developed my skills and experiences as well as helped me become customer-focused. That's important because, eventually, I want to open my own restaurant." Pierre is confident he is leaving the kitchen in safe hands. "Running a kitchen is like having kids. You watch them develop, and Michael has improved fantastically. I now watch him make a dish, and don't have to change anything."
Peter Candler, Managing Director of Jesmond Dene House, pays tribute to Pierre's hard work and creativity, pointing out how Pierre has not only raised standards but given confidence and inspiration to the kitchen team. "Even though Pierre is leaving, he leaves behind a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise which is firmly embedded in our kitchen. And from which we will continue to benefit. Both Pierre, and his partner Muriel, share our passion for Jesmond Dene House. Everyone at the hotel wishes them well and we're sure they will maintain their contact with the hotel and the region."