A Friday Chat With The Blenheim Palace Executive Chef, Alun Roberts25 June 2021
Alun Roberts is our executive chef at Blenheim Palace, where Searcys is the official caterer for magnificent afternoon teas, al-fresco dinners, events and so much more. Alun has been here since November 2019 and oversees everything from recreating historical recipes to launching al-fresco summer dining.
Alun, tell us a little about yourself?
I started as a kitchen porter in a 3-rosette restaurant called The Metropolis in Cardiff, as I needed money to go on holidays. Five years later I was the head chef. My career has been varied and eventful, and I have worked in some really amazing venues – the Ashmolean Museum, the Science Museum, V&A, Chatsworth, and The Walnut Tree. Obviously, I have been blessed with working here at Blenheim Palace for the past two years.
Tell us your three favourite things about the venue you work at?
First of all, the people are awesome. we have a really talented team and I couldn’t do my job without them. The Italian Gardens are my favourite view here at Blenheim – the Duke’s private gardens are the view you get from the Orangery… it’s just stunning. And finally, being hands-on. Often as an executive chef you don’t get the opportunity, but I have plenty here.
What is your favourite part of the day?
It has to be going home to see my family.
What is your favourite dish to cook and to eat?
Vinci Grassi. It’s basically an 18th-century lasagne. It’s got an extraordinarily rich and sumptuous flavour, like nothing I have tasted before. It is to die for and I loved sampling it at The Walnut Tree.
Did you have to adapt to events and restaurants in post-Covid times? What changes or innovations have you introduced?
If anything, it has bought my team closer together metaphorically. It has made us work smarter not harder. We have all learnt something new along the way.
What about the customers? What is the most popular menu at your venue and why?
The menu at our new Stables Café is going down well. We have just opened it in the West Courtyard with delicious open sandwiches, cakes and fresh salads, full of colour and flavour. We’ve also recently launched a special Afternoon Tea at the Orangery dedicated to Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim Palace. It comes with a glass of Pol Roger Champagne which was known to be his favourite, and also a special fruitcake inspired by a recipe by Churchill’s personal cook, Georgina Landemare.
What are you working on at the moment?
We are extremely fortunate to have been given a new workspace. It’s a specialised production kitchen, which has been made available through Blenheim Estate funding. As soon as it is signed off, we will be moving in. Along with that, I’m working on new menus for the two restaurants here at Blenheim.
Busy, busy, busy… but I love it!