A Friday Chat with Searcys Executive Chef at The Royal College of Surgeons, Nick Seckington17 June 2022
With over 15 years’ experience cooking in some of the finest restaurants in the UK, Nick Seckington Joined the brand-new opening of The View at the Royal College of Surgeons as Executive Chef a year ago. This week, he talks to us about a drive for more vegan canapes, interactive flatbread stands, and The View’s ingenious Jam Jar menu.
Hi Nick. Tell us about yourself – how did you start out in cooking and what experience do you have?
I joined hospitality as a kitchen porter when I was 13, washing pots and pans. I went to catering college at 16 and started working in a pub at the same age. By 18, I was working for Raymond Blanc at Petit Blanc in Cheltenham. After that, I went to work for Anton Mosimann when I was just 20. I then worked with chef David Cavalier for about six years before going to The Mandarin Oriental, where I was a junior sous chef.
When did you join Searcys?
In January 2020, just a couple of months before the pandemic. I started with Searcys at 30 Euston Square with Allan Heard (whom I’ve known for a very long time), but then Covid hit about two months later. I kept working with 30 Euston Square. Then, as executive chef, I joined the new team at The View at The Royal College of Surgeons of England in June 2021. Among other reasons, I’ve stayed with Searcys because they looked after me a lot during the pandemic.
Tell us your three favourite things about the venue you work at?
The people, first and foremost.
It’s different day to day.
And finally, it’s a new venue, so working here is nice and fresh and bright.
What is your favourite dish on the menu at The View?
It might sound weird, but at the minute, it’s a vegan and gluten-free strawberry raspberry fool with a gluten-free crumb. We’ve been playing with the recipe for a couple of months to get it just right, and it’s there now.
What is your favourite part of the day and why?
Coming in in the morning (at 7.15, normally), checking the function sheets, seeing how the day is looking and talking to staff before we get going.
What menu changes or innovations have you introduced since the pandemic, or recently in general?
One of the biggest things we’ve launched post-pandemic is our hugely popular Jam Jar buffet lunch – we have a choice for clients who don’t want sandwiches and finger food. People choose 3; it’s almost like tapas, with starters, mains and desserts beautifully presented in jars with nice, neat lids. Of course, we wash and reuse them all, so it’s great for avoiding any packaging too. We’ve also just launched a light, interactive station with wraps and flatbreads, which is going down well.
What about the customers? What can they not get enough of at the moment?
Interestingly, in some ways, people have gone back and want things they’re comfortable and familiar with rather than any kind of avant-garde cooking. Really, it’s all about fresh, veggie, and vegan dishes, bright colours and presentation. Things are all visual, beyond just tasting delicious. I think people want what they know because they are out of the way of events. Our vegan fool in a little jam jar is going down a treat, too.
What has been your most unusual customer request?
Well, people want everything vegan, everything GF, so pulling together our first-ever 80-person canape menu that was entirely vegan and gluten-free was an accomplishment.
What has been your favourite event to date in 2022?
A couple of weeks ago, I did The Prince’s Trust Awards Dinner at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which was terrific. We did bowls and canapes, and we did all the prep here. Prince Charles was there, Ant and Dec were presenting, it was an incredible experience, so that stands out at the minute.
What’s something you’re excited to be working on at the moment?
I’m a huge gin enthusiast – I infuse my own gins at home and am really passionate about it – so I’m working on a recipe for a gin cheesecake that will taste truly incredible.
What advice would you give those who wish to enter hospitality?
You meet people from different walks of life and countries, but it’s also hard. My advice would be to open your eyes and absorb everything because no two days are the same. For someone starting as a commis chef, I’d say bring pen and paper and write everything down.
Searcys is celebrating its 175th birthday next year. What is your birthday wish to the company and your colleagues?
Honestly, just keep doing what you’re doing. Searcys is into food, into people, and it is a really good company to work for. And I don’t say that just because I work for them; they do care about their people.