Five minutes with: Simon Shand

The head chef at Michelin-starred Leroy in Shoreditch on devilled eggs, living a balanced life and why he’s the happiest kid in town

Food and Drink 17 May 2022

Simon Shand, head chef at Leroy

Simon Shand, head chef at Leroy

How did it feel to take the reins at Leroy?

It was a whirlwind. Post lockdowns and a new job aside, it’s a very busy, very well-established restaurant. I was nervous to not drop the ball. Now the dust has settled, I’m the happiest kid in town.

What can diners expect from Leroy?

Good wine/food/chat/music, probably some devilled eggs and some cab franc.

The last two years have been difficult for people in the restaurant industry, what has this time taught you?

I think I had a similar situation to a lot of people in the industry, certainly many people I spoke to. I had a long time to reflect on my life in the industry so far: was I where I wanted to be career wise? Was my work-life balance actually balanced? Am I healthy enough? Happy enough?

Aside from a lot of narcissistic self-reflection, I spent lots of the lockdowns perusing interests I hadn’t pursued since I was a teenager, and I really enjoyed doing so and it’s something I’ve stuck with. Hospitality is a very consuming profession, and it’s one of the things that I enjoy most about it, but you have to keep on top of it. If you’re not living a balanced life, you miss out on all the best bits of the job.

The menu at Leroy depends on the seasons, but do you have a favourite dish on the menu at the moment and if so, what is it?

I usually like the newest thing on the menu the most. My sous chef, Harry, has been de-boning lamb saddles and stuffing them with a chicken and pine nut farce, serving it with ratatouille. That’s the best thing on the menu at the moment.

Where do you get the inspiration for new dishes?

The team: we all talk about food a lot, what we’ve eaten recently, what we’ve read about, seen on TV. I’m lucky to work with a bunch of squares who like to talk about food. Good dishes become good dishes while they’re being worked out in the kitchen. I’ve very rarely had a good idea outside a restaurant.

What ingredient can you not live without?

Green beans – in season they’re always on the menu in some capacity. In a peach and gorgonzola salad, dressed in heaps of mustard next to a slow-braised rabbit leg. Out of season, I eat plenty of them at home anyway. Love those guys.

Who is your role model and why?

Bradley, our restaurant manager. Why? Come to Leroy for dinner and meet him and you’ll understand why.

What is your favourite restaurant in the world and why?

Sadly closed now, but Arbutus in Soho is my favourite restaurant of all time. Every dish was banging old-school French bistronomy, loads of wines by the carafe. When I first moved to London I had dinner there and immediately went downstairs and asked for a job. Anthony Demetre’s a genius, I learned everything in those kitchens.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest at Leroy and what would you cook for them?

Anyone who wants to be here for the food, the wine, the chat and the music, and I’ll cook them whatever they ask for. You can’t beat guests who just love restaurants.