Next chef to feature on our #HotList is Ben Jegu, who tells us what it's like cooking for a club with a worldwide reputation for excellence...
Cooking for one of the best private members clubs in the world might strike some as being an easy call but, walking into the Great Gallery at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, you soon realise what a special venue this is. It has to be one of the most beautiful dining rooms anywhere and the members expect the food to very much live up to the venue.
With Philip Corrick steering the whole kitchen operation for the past 28 years, the Club has achieved a worldwide reputation for excellence and evolution. That has enabled it to entice some of the best cooking talent, including Benjamin Jegu, formerly of The Ritz in Paris.
Watching Ben work in the kitchen during photography, with his assistant for the day Oliver, he is clearly a man who wants to encourage his staﬀ to contribute and evolve with the business. Ben is quick to point out that he aspires to emulate Philip’s patriarchal style of leadership. It is clear that leading a happy and inspired team means everything to Ben and even if someone leaves (which they hardly ever do) it is with every support for furthering their career.
If you have never dined at the Royal Automobile Club then try to get an invitation. I have only ever eaten in the Great Gallery once and it was fabulous. I really envy the members. Ben is very clear about the fact that they demand excellence; a tricky balance between satisfying regulars who have very particular tastes, with the will to introduce new and innovative dishes, all aimed at making them happy and eager to return. It is clear that his skills in classical cooking provide the basis for delivering that level of satisfaction. The added bonus is the determination to keep improving and evolving add a twist which makes the dishes modern and surprising.
Ben is all about putting his hard-earned knowledge on a plate, inspiring his team to work together to constantly achieve excellence in an unusual and demanding area of hospitality; but he also wants to make them part of the dining experience, both front and back-of-house. ‘We are a team’ he says. ‘It doesn’t matter if that is one side of the kitchen door or the other. The members feel like this is their second home and that means they are treated with aﬀection and respect by everyone. I often go into the restaurant to see how they like any new dish we try. It is part of knowing what matters and what works.’ I asked Ben if he thought there was a misconception in the industry of the standard of dining in Private Members Clubs.
He was sure there was and that they would be surprised if they knew how high the standards were. I just hope the members know how lucky they are!