James Sommerin’s debut book Generations charts the chef’s journey to achieving a Michelin star for the second time in 2016 at his eponymous restaurant in Penarth near Cardiff, two years after opening, as well as the recipes served there.
The book features a foreword by Bibendum chef Claude Bosi, who shares an anecdote of refusing to critique Sommerin’s food when asked and instead advising him to be true to himself and ignore what anyone else might say. Whether the advice landed or not, eight months later Sommerin scored his first Michelin star at the Crown at Whitebrook.
Sommerin tells of starting out his catering career, washing dishes at an Italian restaurant in Newport, a job his dad got for him. From there he moved to Scotland aged 16 to take up a commis chef position at Farleyer House in Aberfeldy, Perthshire. In 2000 he returned to Wales as sous chef at the Crown at Whitebrook, and worked his way up to his first head chef position, subsequently securing a Michelin star and going on to open Restaurant James Sommerin. His wife Louise and her two sisters work front of house at his restaurant, and daughter Georgia works in the kitchen.
Generations is as much a personal account as a professional one, with numerous family photos as well as of food. He credits his late grandmother with teaching him how to cook
The book is also an open account of the highs and lows of cheffing. Sommerin is honest about the disappointment he felt not making it into the Michelin Guide 18 months after opening, as well as the financial realities of putting everything into a solo restaurant.
The suckling pork belly with pork and Parmesan crumb, guinea fowl and truffle, and pigeon with black pudding purée, raspberry and beetroot vinaigrette particularly catch my eye from the mains section. Naturally, Sommerin has also included a take on the liquid pea ravioli which took him to the finals of Great British Menu.
The tome is an ideal coffee table book for any chef looking to replicate Sommerin’s classic and technically precise dishes.
Generations by James Sommerin (A Way with Media, £40)