Steve Love MCA
“Looking back, I can say that the stage definitely helped me to have the confidence to open my own restaurant. ”
Steve Love won in 1997, at the age of 27 and did his stage at Alain Ducasse in Paris. He is now a consultant and private chef.
Steve grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon and started his formal training at Stratford College at 17, going on to do his apprenticeship at The Welcombe Hotel. He then went onto Ettington Park Hotel, where he was working as a sous chef when he won the Roux Scholarship.
After winning the competition, Steve did his stage at Alain Ducasse’s three-star-Michelin restaurant in Paris. It was here that Steve says his direction of food changed. He realised that the very best food being cooked was as a result of sourcing the best possible ingredients and treating them with absolute care and consideration.
On his return from Paris, he took a position working alongside Gary Jones (now Executive Chef at Le Manoir aux Quats Saisons) at the Waldo’s Restaurant at Cliveden. His career then took him to the role of Head Chef at Mallory Court in Leamington Spa, where he met his future wife Claire and within a year they opened Loves Restaurant in Leamington Spa in 2001. It was while Steve was here that he won the coveted National Chef of the Year for Great Britain 2004; he was the first Roux Scholar to hold both titles.
In 2009, Steve and his wife Claire relocated Loves Restaurant to Birmingham. This was run to national acclaim until it closed in 2015, winning 3 AA Rosettes; of all Birmingham's restaurants it had the highest listing in the Top 100 Restaurants in the UK by The National Restaurant awards and was included in the Good Food Guide achieving 7/10 for dining.
They then brought their expertise to fellow restaurateurs in the industry by opening Love’s Consultancy, which helps advise on everything from negotiating commercial leases to kitchen design, as well as menu development and sommelier training.
In 2013, Steve entered and achieved the Master of the Culinary Arts run by the Academy of Culinary Arts. Currently only two people have ever held all three national competition titles, the other being Frederick Forster, a fellow Roux Scholar.
Most recently, Steve has also been working as a private chef aboard yachts for high-net worth individuals in Monaco.
Where did you do your stage?
Alain Ducasse was the chef who was at the forefront of the industry and suddenly I went from being a sous chef in a country house hotel thinking about banqueting and room service, the next minute I was in one of the world’s great kitchens in the centre of Paris. It certainly opened my eyes. Kitchen life was tough to begin with. It’s a different culture over there and they like to test you but I had age on my side and I knew why I was there. Looking back I can say that the stage definitely helped me to have the confidence to open my own place. When I came back I knew I had to learn more and I went to work with Gary Jones. Being the Roux Scholar definitely opened that door. I wouldn’t have got a look in otherwise.
What did you cook in the final?
Turban de filets de Sole et de Saumon villaret, mousse de Homard, which basically means using a savarin mould filled with alternate fillets of sole, strips of salmon, filled with lobster mousse and steamed. The centre was filled with spinach and mushrooms of your choice and a butter sauce served on the side. The challenge with this dish was to make sure that the salmon strips were slightly thicker than the sole filets to allow for even cooking; and having made a lobster mousse before, I made the mousse wetter due to the extra protein in the lobster so it was soft to eat when turned out of the mould.
How many times did you enter?
It was the first time of entering and I qualified for the scholarship by one day. At the time, you had to be at most 27 when entering and the deadline was the day before my birthday, so I knew I only had one shot. Still, it was a nice early birthday present.
What do you remember most about the competition the year you won?
I was very nervous about the whole thing as I had never even set foot in a Michelin-starred restaurant before to eat or work, and I knew all the other finalists had or were familiar with that environment, including the Head Chef at Le Manoir who was another of the finalist, so I knew the competition was pretty stiff. I do remember seeing Michel Snr in the car park under the hotel where the final was being held and he called me over. He tapped me around the back of the head, smiled and said: "I have good feeling about you today". That was the kick I probably needed as I was pretty nervous about it all at that moment.
What advice would you give applicants?
The key for me with all competitions is being confident in your own abilities, I went into every competition to win, not to make up the numbers. But also, please make sure that your entry is legible, give it to someone else to read before submitting, make sure your costings stack up and put these dishes on your menus, so you are cooking them day in and day out. You need two strong dishes to get through the semi-finals, so you need to allow time to turn out a great dessert from the mystery basket. The competition has never been tougher, and you need to deliver on the day. The competition can be very tough mentally, so make sure that you surround yourself at work and home with people that can support you through this.
What is it like to be a Roux Scholar?
It makes me proud to be chef every day. Without winning, I am not sure I would have had the confidence to open a restaurant in my own right. I then went on to run my own restaurants for 15 years. It also gave me the confidence to enter other competitions including Master of the Culinary Arts and National Chef of the Year for Great Britain, which I also won. The respect gained in the industry from being a Roux scholar is huge, and it follows you for the rest of your life. Its opened so many doors that likely would have remained closed to me, and for that alone I am eternally grateful. It’s also been fantastic to give back as much as possible to the scholarship including mentoring candidates over the years, and for numerous years judging the semi-finals and the prestige of judging the finals on the 30th Anniversary.
Tell us about your current role?
It is something I looked to do it earlier in in my career and never got the chance. An opportunity came up through our consultancy and so I decided go for it. Having access to fresh produce from the amazing local markets I get to go to including south of France, Sardinia, Greek islands and Italy means that I get the freedom to cook with the best ingredients that money can buy. I get to travel all over the Mediterranean, often being able to get off to see culture, towns, meet the people behind the produce and generally experience some pretty amazing scenes. Being able to take a £ ½ million tender to go shopping in the mornings is also pretty cool. With Loves Consultancy, I am doing Menu development when I’m home, alongside overseeing any client kitchen design and set-up which I can do from anywhere. I tend to leave Claire to the day-today running of the consultancy, where all the other aspects of the business including brand design, lease negotiations, fit outs, property searches and front of house aspects including training and wine lists is left up to her.