Cornwall LivingIssue #137
The importance of people
Introducing Ross Sloan – new Head Chef at Kota Restaurant, Porthleven.
It’s perhaps never been more apparent in business that you’re only as good as your people. People make the world go round; having the right people on board, who share your vision, your creativity, your drive to push the envelope, and your standards of work, can make a good business a great one. One man who fully understands this is Jude Kereama, owner of Porthleven restaurants, Kota and Kota Kai.
The food found at each establishment, whilst different in style and catering to different guests, is the result of great people – of talented chefs in the kitchen, and equally talented front-of-house staff bringing it to the table. Ross Sloan, Jude’s new Head Chef at Kota, is a prime example of this, his approach to and appreciation of good food dovetailing beautifully with Jude’s goal to provide the ultimate hospitality experience for visitors to Porthleven. We catch up with Ross and gain an insight into his role, what he’s doing differently, and how he feels about the world of Cornish cuisine.
Starting his career as a chef in hotels in Stratford-Upon-Avon and London, Ross later moved to Cornwall, where he took over the Halzephron Inn at the age of 21. Here, he says: “I gained Dining Pub of the Year twice – in 2001 and again in 2004.” That’s an impressive start for any chef, and it wasn’t long before Ross found himself working aboard super yachts and in the private household industry, where his considered approach to food won the hearts of those who appreciate the very finest things in life. With that frontier conquered, he set his sights on London again, opening a Bohemian-style restaurant in Camden called Boho. Whilst he was working in one of the foodie capitals of the world, there was, nevertheless, a magnetic draw to return to the Duchy and pick up where he’d left off. “Cornwall has always pulled me back,” he explains, “and so before long I moved back to take over the role of Head Chef at the late Mount Haven Hotel, where we achieved awards such as Best Foodie Hotel and Best Hotel.”
His history in Cornwall goes even further than that. In fact, we learn that as well as Mount Haven and before it, the Halzephron, Ross had actually already spent some time in the role of Head Chef at Kota almost a decade ago! “So,” he laughs, “I’ve come back to where I started. Jude and I go way back. When he came to me the second time around, I was already filling in at Kota as a temp, and his current Head Chef at the time, Pete Almond, was planning to relocate back to Australia. I was ready to take the position again.”
On working with Jude, Ross explains: “It’s always fun being in the kitchen with him – there’s always great banter, and generally we tend to bounce off each other’s ideas.” Crucially, the two of them agree on some key principles, which makes their relationship all the better. They agree, for example, that Cornwall is home to what can only be described as a bounty of growers and producers. As Ross puts it, “Cornwall is the place to source such ingredients!”
So, what does Ross bring to the menu? “I generally have a lot of freedom with the menus. Jude ‘okays’ them and sometimes adds elements to a dish if needed. Since I started again as Head Chef, I’ve been able to introduce quite a lot to the menu. For example, I’ve replaced the amuse bouche with snacks, which I think are way more fun! I can get really creative with them, and they tie well with my love for sharing.”
With this in mind, Ross has introduced perhaps one of the biggest changes to the menu that Kota has seen for some time. “I’ve moved to a small plates menu for lunch,” he explains. “This gives the customer a chance to come and enjoy as little or as many of my dishes as they like. They can sample the whole small plates menu, if they choose! Here at Kota, the small plates are all about sharing. I love to eat this style of food, and I’m sure our guests love it too.”
As Kota, like every other restaurant in the Duchy, prepares to get the season rolling, it’s looking set to be another busy one, not least here in Porthleven. With changes to the lunchtime menus and the combined flair of Ross and Jude bustling away in the kitchen, to anybody who shares their love for the virtues of great Cornish food and the pleasure of sharing, we would highly recommend booking a table.
Kota and Kota Kai