The Vineyard’s head chef, Robby Jenks, talks to us about party planning, Christmas cooking and the secret to a successful event
WHAT IS YOUR CULINARY BACKGROUND?
I started my culinary career as a kitchen porter for a hotel in my home town of Tiverton, in Devon. I spent a lot of hours in the kitchen, and got a real buzz from the fast-paced environment. When an opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance to train as a chef. After finishing school, I went into a professional kitchen as a commis chef and haven’t looked back since!
HOW HAS THE VINEYARD’S FOOD OFFERING CHANGED SINCE YOU BECAME HEAD CHEF?
After taking the helm of The Vineyard kitchen in February 2016, I have worked on creating a simple but perfect dining experience. Working alongside a talented team of chefs, I have created a new menu concept using classical cooking with modern techniques and the best possible ingredients.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE ASPECT OF CHRISTMAS (WHEN IT COMES TO COOKING)?
I really enjoy the festive season and being swept up in the merry atmosphere! When it comes to cooking, I just love all stuffing; there are so many different and delicious flavours, and it is a must-have on the Christmas table.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE FOR CATERING AN OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY?
Make [your party] about sharing. Christmas is all about creating magical moments and memories so bringing this into the celebration with the food you serve will make it less stressful for the host.
WHAT’S THE BEST FOOD TO SERVE AT A CHRISTMAS PARTY?
Putting on a good spread for Christmas can be difficult when catering for large numbers. As it is a celebration and brings people together, I would cook a beef wellington because it’s a household favourite and something extra special.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE FESTIVE COOKING TIPS?
First, make sure you buy a good turkey; select one that will feed the whole family. Second, when it comes to cooking the turkey, allow time to baste the meat to ensure it is moist and tender. And, third, once the bird is out of the oven, rest it (that is absolutely essential) before serving.
WHAT IS THE SECRET TO HOSTING A SUCCESSFUL CHRISTMAS PARTY?
Planning is absolutely essential. Make sure you have a clear idea of what you would like to achieve from the event in advance. If everyone has the same vision from the beginning it will be easier to achieve your goals — and the event is much more likely to be a resounding success.
WHAT SHOULD EVENT PLANNERS AVOID SERVING AT THE OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY?
There is no right or wrong when it comes to food for Christmas parties. As long as you have good company you will be sure to have a fabulous evening!
The Vineyard is a five-star hotel and spa with a three AA Rosette restaurant and an award-winning 30,000-bottle wine cellar. Located in Stockcross, near Newbury in Berkshire, the hotel is conveniently situated to the M4 corridor.