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Q&A with Executive Head Chef, Paul Reader

With British Food Fortnight approaching, we spoke to our newly promoted Executive Head Chef, Paul Reader, to talk about everything you need to know about dining at The Runnymede on Thames. Find out about our famous Sunday buffet lunch at Leftbank, why being a chef at The Runnymede is so different to other venues and the creativity that goes into producing our seasonal dishes.

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How long have you worked in the industry and what has been your biggest achievement to date?

I have been a chef for the last 20 years, and first started when I left school with my very first Saturday job! I’ve worked in a range of establishments both in the US and UK. I’ve had many achievements throughout my career including earning the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Award of Excellence. However, by far the most rewarding personal achievement has been the progression of my career right here at The Runnymede over the last ten years, culminating recently in my appointment as Executive Chef.

What do you enjoy most about working at The Runnymede on Thames?

The Runnymede has always had a very strong focus on people; the team is close knit and gets along really well. We also have a real culture of developing and supporting team members through their career and this is something I try to do as much as possible within the kitchens. Currently, we have students from our local catering college in for work experience, a student from an apprenticeship programme as well as younger members of the team who are right at the beginning of their careers and looking for guidance in an environment in which they can blossom.

How do you get creative with planning new menus?

It’s a team effort here at The Runnymede. We usually start with an ingredient that’s in season and recommended by our local suppliers. Together with our Head Chef, Adesh or our Pastry Chef, Ahment, I play around with a few ideas for dishes, then we decide on the final version for the menu together, after we have also talked through our ideas with the team. It’s also a great learning opportunity for our younger chefs who are improving all the time. The dishes will then be tasted by our Food and Beverage Manager, Hayley and General Manager, Sue before being rolled out into one of our restaurants. The result of this process is hopefully a menu that the whole team buys into and is proud of.

What’s your favourite season for creating new dishes?

It has to be the winter. There is nothing more satisfying than spending time making a traditional slow braised dish that has been made with high quality cuts of meat, slow cooked for hours with wine and herbs. The resulting dish has a huge depth of flavour.

What’s your favourite dish on the menu?

We serve a Robata grilled, harissa spiced shoulder of lamb which always receive lots of really good feedback. We take a whole shoulder of lamb, remove the bones and trim any excess fat. This is then marinated in a fragrant harissa spice before being sealed inside a vacuum bag and slowly cooked for around 16 hours. We then give the meat a light char on our Robata grill in front of our guests. The resulting dish is deliciously tender slices of lamb, packed full of flavour from both the spices and the flame-grilling process.

What’s your favourite cuisine?

I like a wide and varied selection of cuisines; my favourite will vary depending on the time of the year.  In summer, I tend to lean towards Italian as it lends itself so well to summer evenings outside and al fresco dining, whilst in winter my ‘go to’ foods are classic British comfort dishes such as stews and pies. This is reflected in the eclectic mix of dishes that can be sampled at our legendary Leftbank buffet.

How do you like to spend your days off?

Over the last six months I have taken up the sport of clay pigeon shooting, so on my days off I can quite often be found out in the fresh air blowing clays to pieces!! Great fun and a great way to unwind after a hectic week!

What’s your favourite dish when you dine out?

When dining out I will often go for the fish or seafood option on a menu. One of my favourites would have to be roasted Cornish sole, on the bone with brown shrimp butter and plenty of fresh squeezed lemon. This dish is simple, but if the ingredients are fresh, it is amazing.

The Sunday roasts are always so popular at The Runnymede. How do you maintain the quality and keep customers coming back?

We use quality suppliers, fantastic ingredients and I am very lucky to have a great team that know exactly how to cook them. Our salad buffet is always heaped high with fresh produce, sliced charcuterie and the ever-popular crevettes with Marie Rose sauce.

For the main course, the 5 bone rib of beef is always the star of the show; Scottish beef that’s been aged before being slow roasted overnight to ensure we keep it pink all the way through and incredibly tender. This is served alongside our signature pulled pork and rotisserie chicken with heaps of gravy. There is always a beautiful nut roast for our vegetarian guests as well as an abundance of vegetables, cauliflower cheese and of course, HUGE Yorkshire puddings. If after all of that our guests have room for more, there are plenty of choices for dessert…all freshly made by our pastry team on-site.

What’s different about working as a chef at The Runnymede?

The Runnymede is a great place to work as a chef. We have a professional yet friendly atmosphere, everyone knows everyone within the hotel so you’re not just a number. Working at the hotel we get some really good perks like use of the gym and that’s not even mentioning getting the chance to cook outside in front of our guests at the River Hideout during the summer.

We have a broad range of chefs within the brigade, some with many years of experience and some with very limited experience. It is a great place to learn and develop not just culinary skills but also in other areas, with courses for all levels from basic first aid training right up to food safety and other management courses.

If you want to see more of what we get up to you can see some behind the scenes shots on my Instagram at chef_paul_reader or if you’re interested in hearing about opportunities we have in the kitchen please email an up to date CV to

Could you be the next member of our kitchen team? We’re always on the lookout for new talent.  Email an up to date CV to

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