It’s a big team to head up at The Randolph – 22 chefs and seven kitchen porters – but it was an opportunity new executive head chef Rhys Grayson couldn’t resist when offered the job.
“The Randolph is such an iconic name, known the world over”
He’s had his work cut out for him though. As well as The Alice – the main restaurant there – there are numerous conference rooms, private dining suites, high tea, room service and breakfast to contend with.
Dining numbers were low when he arrived and there was a lot to be done to restore The Randolph’s culinary reputation, but eight months in and Rhys’ reputation proceeds him, the food produced in the kitchens now hitting all the right notes.
“It’s been the biggest challenge of my career, but i don’t regret a second”
“It’s been the biggest challenge of my career,” Rhys admits “but I don’t regret a second. I could always see its potential. The Randolph is such an iconic name, known the world over, and the quality of the food now matches that,” the 32 year-old says proudly.
“We’ve still got a way to go, and it won’t happen overnight, but we’ve stepped up to the mark and are building a name for ourselves again.”
Rhys’ CV is impressive. Hailing from Epsom he got the foodie bug early on, and soon wangled a scholarship through Westminster Kingsway College at The Wolseley in London.
Moving swiftly up the ranks he moved on to the RAC Club, Boulstin and Fischers in London then Pasture in Bristol and Cardiff, before making a name for himself opening restaurants such as D&D, German Gymnasium and Haugen in London.
Fancying a change, he heard that the top job at The Randolph was up for grabs and once appointed, immediately began training up his chefs and writing new menus featuring the kind of food he wanted to cook.
“I’ve never shied away from hard work,” he says, “I want us to be the best restaurant in Oxford. We are not going to be Le Manoir but our smart brasserie style menu is thriving and we are finally making a name for ourselves,” Rhys says.
Eight months down the line he’s happy to see everything going in the right direction. Numbers are up, customers are happy and The Randolph’s culinary reputation is on the rise.
So what of his food? “It’s all about seasonality and sustainability, so our new spring menu showcases radishes and asparagus, wild garlic, fresh morel mushrooms, purple sprouting broccoli – everything that is in season,” he says.
“But I also love bringing back the classics and giving them a twist, as well as coming up with new ideas, so my Caesar salad is made with 24 month aged gruyere, smoked garlic, home made sourdough croutons and the best chicken we can get our hands on.”
Rhys is also experimenting with a fermented garlic and honey dressing which he serves with pork chops, as well as dry ageing his meat.
And what of the future? “We will keep pushing on until we get where we want to be. Rosettes I hope but we are now in a much more comfortable place than we were six months ago.
“But it’s also about inspiring my team, showing them what the dream is and how to respect the produce, teaching them not only how to cook but how to develop as chefs, to love what they do.
“You need to motivate your staff but everyone needs to be taught with respect,” Rhys adds, and with that he’s back to the kitchens, to do what he does best – cooking with passion.
The Alice at The Randolph is on Beaumont Street, Oxford. https://www.graduatehotels.com/oxford-uk/restaurant/the-alice/