I first met Stephanie Moon at the home of Sue Nelson, owner of Yorkshire Food Finder. We were all participating in an outside broadcast for Radio York and Stephanie was part of an excellent team of chefs demonstrating Christmas dishes live on air. Whilst I have been known to step up and cook at the local York Food Festival, the idea of balancing a number of hot pans whilst simultaneously being interviewed for a live radio broadcast was absolutely terrifying. But that is what Stephanie did, and she seemed to be enjoying every single second of it. Her passion for the ingredients and simple joie de vivre was unmistakable.
Two months later and I find myself in the cafe at Rudding Park, eating perfectly handcut chips and listening to Stephanie explain how she “sort of, just fell into” working with food.
“At first I wanted to be a physiotherapist, or a nanny. Growing up on a farm meant that food was a natural part of my life and I often cooked at home. I could walk the cows in for milking and back then there were wild strawberries growing at the sides of the path. I guess you could say my love of the land started there. I applied to do the YTS (Youth Training Scheme) in a pub, not really knowing if catering would become my career. Before I could start my cookery teacher rang my parents and said that I should be applying for catering college”
Her studies at Craven College culminated in Stephanie winning Student of the Year – soon followed by a position at The Dorchester – and she hasn’t looked back. With a number of awards under her belt she has spent the last seventeen years in the beautiful Regency setting of Rudding Park Hotel, currently in the role of Consultant Chef. Stephanie feels that the key to her longevity is an ability to evolve and grow within the job.
“I’m not as hands on now. That is ok, it’s a natural progression. We have some amazing, talented chefs. They are an excellent team at the Clocktower and Banqueting. When I first started at The Clocktower as head chef the restaurant had around 80 seats. Now they can accomodate 188 people inside and another 98 on the terrace in the summer. ”
Stephanie continues to follow her passion for foraging and Yorkshire produce, sometimes meeting guests to forage on the estates parklands and presenting at events such as The Great Yorkshire Show. But what makes her so loyal to her work at Rudding Park even though she runs a successful consultancy business across Yorkshire?
“We have a team of serious chefs always looking to take their food to the next level. They are constantly striving for innovation. The kitchen garden has 54 raised beds full of ingredients like edible flowers and baby vegetables. Local and seasonal sourcing can sound like a bit of a cliche nowadays but it is still very important and the kitchen garden means that we really can do exactly that. What can I say, it’s a great place to work.”
If you would like to read more about Stephanie and her ongoing work with Rudding Park Hotel and numerous events around Yorkshire visit her blog at thewildcooks.co.uk.