“I’ve got so many ideas and I’m super excited,” Michelin starred chef Paul Welburn tells me as news about his new chef patron role at The Swan in Islip broke.
“I just want to cook my style of food and for people to enjoy it. I’ve got so many ideas and plans. I’m really buzzing about it.”
“I had resigned myself to leaving Oxfordshire to be honest “
Yes, news that Paul Welburn is staying in Oxfordshire to turn The Swan in Islip into a fine dining destination, has created quite a stir, firstly because the Yorkshireman has decided to stay put and secondly because who’s heard of The Swan?
We have now, and an extensive refurbishment package is already underway before the new concept opens this summer.
“I needed to find somewhere with ambition, with people who wanted to do things differently, somewhere I could serve my style of food”
So how did this come about? “When I left 215 in Summertown (where he got a Michelin star within months) I was looking for somewhere that would enable me to keep cooking my kind of food, but I just couldn’t find the right fit,” he tells me.
“I needed to find somewhere with ambition, with people who wanted to do things differently, somewhere I could serve my style of food. It needed to be the right fit. I don’t have an ego at all but I do want to progress my cooking and pick up where I left off. I needed something that excited me.”
Luckily Migg Inns and local resident Nina Gray, had taken on The Swan and were looking for the right chef to realise their vision when they messaged Paul.
Paul adds: “I had actually resigned myself to leaving Oxfordshire to be honest when the new owners of The Swan came to me with a really exciting idea. So it was perfect timing.
“I have got so many ideas, but I have to be patient which isn’t my strong point”
“The only problem was that The Swan was a pub, and I didn’t want to do pubs. But I went to meet them and had a look around, and we had exactly the same vision, we wanted exactly the same things and the conversation went from there,” he says beaming.
Unable to say too much but bursting to tell me everything he says: “I have got so many ideas, but I have to be patient which isn’t my strong point.
“All I can say is it’s going to be a pub but not a pub. I just want to go in there and create some amazing food. I just want to get back to cooking again.
We can expect a combination of taster and a la carte menus, but more than that and Paul is staying tight lipped. “It won’t be fish and chips and burgers but my menus evolve all the time. I’m just aiming to pick up where I left off,” he smiles.
“I like Oxfordshire and I’ve put down roots here. Being chef patron gives me longevity”
“We want to bring The Swan back to life and there is so much I want to do there and so much more to come.
As for staying in the county, Paul says: “I like Oxfordshire and I’ve put down roots here. Being chef patron gives me longevity. It means I’m more than an employee. It will be me from the heart. This is literally me.”
“I’m still hungry and I still believe that hospitality is the best industry to work in so this is about creating something and seeing where we can take it.”
Nina Gray said: “We had been looking to take on the Swan Inn for some time and make it a great destination pub and restaurant, but wanted to sign up the right person to lead the project.
“I’m still hungry and I still believe that hospitality is the best industry to work in”
“Meeting Paul was perfect timing. We are now working with Paul on the re-fit, so that it is in accordance with our combined vision. Obviously, we need to do this within the confines of an historic building. We are looking forward to bringing the Swan Inn back to life!”
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