Celebrated chef Clare Smyth sees a lot of similarity between her approach to fine dining, and Hublot’s approach to fine watchmaking. Prestige caught up with this acclaimed chef to talk about her association with the illustrious brand, and her latest restaurant, Oncore.
Dynamic, daring and driven, Chef Clare Smyth has a multitude of accomplishments to her name. Her Notting Hill restaurant, Core by Clare Smyth, received its first Michelin star in 2018, a year after its debut, and currently holds an incredible three-star rating (making Clare the fourth British chef ever to achieve this honour). Previous to opening her own establishment she worked with culinary legends Gordon Ramsay and Alain Ducasse, and in 2013 she was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to the hospitality industry. She’s also been in the public eye via her many television appearances – MasterChef, Netflix’s The Final Table, BBC’s Great British Menu, and The Late Show – but perhaps her biggest coup was cooking for the Royal Wedding reception of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Adding to her accolades, in 2021 Clare joined Hublot’s growing family of culinary partners as an official ‘Friend of the Brand’, which basically entails working together on special events, VIP dinners, masterclasses, and more. In late August, when Prestige caught up with Chef Clare via Zoom, she was busying herself in Australia – overseeing things at Oncore, the Sydney restaurant she opened in November of 2021.
How did your association with Hublot begin?
It started in London. I’m a big fan of the brand, and they contacted me to see if there was a possibility of working together. I love their creativity, audacity and boldness, and I think there’s a lot of similarity between my style of cooking and approach to fine dining, and their approach to fine watchmaking – pushing the envelope and not being scared of trying new things.
Have you learned anything about watchmaking since becoming a friend of the brand?
Yes. I did a workshop with a watchmaker in London, trying to put together all the pieces, and I still can’t figure out how this little thing just keeps such perfect time and how beautiful the movement is inside. It’s unbelievable. It gives you that real understanding and appreciation of fine watches, and what goes into making them. It’s like all the work that goes on behind a dish we create, that people never see.
How often do you look at your watch while at work?
We check the time all the time! Everything goes by the clock. All the times are written down, so you know exactly how long it takes to cook everything. When you’re working in fine dining it’s all about precision, and timing is everything. It’s like a Formula 1 pit lane. It comes down to seconds before something is overcooked or undercooked.
Oncore restaurant is located in the Crown Sydney complex. How did that relationship come about?
I knew some Crown [Resorts] people and they came to London and dined at Core, and that’s where the conversation started about opening this restaurant. I’m pretty pleased with it. I think it’s one of the most beautiful restaurants in the world. And the views looking out over Sydney Harbour… opportunities like this don’t come along very often.
Tell us about your new cookbook…
I wanted to document all the dishes that we’d created at Core. I’d forgotten so many things. I thought, I have to write everything down. So, we put most of the first three years of dishes into Core: Clare Smyth, the first cookbook, and now I’ve probably got half of a book ready to go again. I just want to make sure I’m noting all those dishes down and sharing them. We started it during the pandemic, in the lockdowns, because it was a good opportunity to do it. But the problem was we couldn’t get all the produce or shoot pictures for the book, so we had to do a little bit every time we came out of lockdown.
Any advice for aspiring female chefs out there?
Kitchens are very different places now, but it’s the same advice I’d give to men: It’s all about dedication, resilience, and working hard. There is no other way. Everyone who is successful will tell you the same thing.