A new menu, a new excitement and a sense of fun has made Zack Deakins, chef patron at 1921, overjoyed to be back in the kitchen
What a brilliant couple of weeks. It just feels so unbelievably good to be back!
We got the team back in the building the week before we were able to open. It was so good to see everyone. We are quite a small team and we have a real family feeling, so it was great to have a catch up and share lockdown stories. The place was given a thorough clean and we also had a chance to look at some of the ways we do things. Just a few behind the scenes tweaks to make things smoother and ultimately improve the guests experience.
Towards the end of the week we fired up the stoves and began restocking the fridges. My god it felt good to get cooking. There was a moment one morning I was getting stocks and sauces on, before the other chefs arrived, when I just came up in goosebumps as I remembered just how much I love it. Cooking at home is good but it does not compare, does not give me that kick.
So a week of preparation in build-up to the 18th. Opening day. We were all absolutely buzzing. Similar to the very first day we opened back in 2014, I had been feeling nervous about it for weeks. So it was great to turn that into positive energy and really get going. We definitely needed that energy as it has been an insanely busy week and looking at the diary it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, which is amazing.
I just love how it all feels new, almost like a fresh start. I am determined not to take that for granted and intend to really make the most of it. The team and I are just going to enjoy ourselves and have a bit of fun.
Other than a few of our stone cold classics, it is pretty much a completely new menu. I think it has a sense of that desire to have fun riding through it with a few quirky takes on things that people might not expect from us. I mean, you wouldn’t expect to get dirty fries at 1921. . . and I don’t want to give too much away, but as I mentioned last month, I am really enjoying taking these sorts of dishes and putting a 1921 spin on them.
I also think the menu is quite reflective. This wasn’t intentional, but I guess with very few new experiences in the last year it is to be expected. It is still a new menu with all new dishes, just quite a few of them are based on dishes and combinations I have emotional attachments to.
For instance, we have a new canapé on the menu based on my Mum’s potato salad. This is a real taste of my childhood summers. We were very fortunate growing up to have a beautiful large garden and in the summer we would be in it from sunrise to sunset. That included meal time. Barbecues were an almost daily thing. Dad would do the barbecue and whatever he cooked would be delicious, but the star of the show (I am sure Dad won’t mind me saying this) was always Mum’s potato salad. I could, and to be honest still can, eat bowls of it. I often say my daughter Charlotte has a separate stomach just for pizza because she can eat so much more of it than anything else. I was like that with Mum’s potato salad. She still makes it and it is still delicious, so I hope this little canapé is a good enough tribute to it. . . it’s all about the French mustard.
Another dish in this sort of vein is the Chicken and Lobster. Chicken and lobster I first experienced as a combination working for Chris at the Bildeston Crown. It’s a combination that always makes me think of the six great years I spent working with him. It’s six years that had a huge impact on my life, not least because I met Annie when we were both working there.
Now another thing Chris is known for is Lobster Caesar Salad, so I have incorporated this into this dish. It has rather unintentionally become a bit of a homage to him and his food. Annie and I often have a Caesar salad at home with Cajun salmon, so for the restaurant I Cajun-ed up the lobster. The result is a dish a little different from our usual but one I am really happy with and has been getting very good feedback.
The fact I feel so attached to the menu and the dishes makes it so much fun to cook and I just feel very lucky to be able to be at it again. Long may it continue.
Zack Deakins is chef patron of 1921 Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds.
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