Image shows - Chef Lee Parsons, in the kitchen of his West Sussex restaurant The Parsons Table.

Creative Me – Lee Parsons

Image shows - Chef Lee Parsons, in the kitchen of his West Sussex restaurant The Parsons Table.
Chef Lee Parsons, in the kitchen of his West Sussex restaurant The Parsons Table.

Under the Oak Tree is…

A meeting place for creative folk. Be inspired by their stories…

Lee Parsons is the chef-owner of The Parsons Table, in Arundel, West Sussex, which he runs with his wife Liz. Lee honed his skills at Claridges, where he met Liz, and Raymond Blanc’s Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. Now, he cooks seasonal, locally-sourced food with a passion that you can taste in every mouthful.

He joins us  Under the Oak Tree to talk about the soundtrack to his work, inspiration for new dishes and slipper love…

1. What are you working on now?

Liz has to type as I am making potato fondants for our lunchtime partridge dish. I cut them into cylinders and then cook them in butter, garlic and thyme until golden and soft.

Image shows - This is where the magic happens... Pots and pans bubbling with delicious seasonal flavours in the kitchen of The Parsons Table.
This is where the magic happens... Pots and pans bubbling with delicious seasonal flavours in the kitchen of The Parsons Table.

2. Describe your desk or workspace?

Surrounded by pots and pans, stock simmering away on the stove, sauces reducing and bag of potatoes in front of me.     

3. What’s the soundtrack to your work?

Metaphorically it’s a Monty Python montage however in reality I don’t play music while I prep, it’s quite literally the heartbeat and rhythm of the kitchen. The chopping, slicing, bubbling and noise of machinery. That’s all I need.

Image shows - Ham Hock Terrine, created by chef Lee Parsons at The Parsons Table in Arundel, West Sussex.
Ham Hock Terrine, created by chef Lee Parsons at The Parsons Table in Arundel, West Sussex.

4. Who or what inspires you?

Seasons, ingredients, flavours. As simple as that.

5. What do you need to create?

I have to be creative every day… with time, products, menu planning, seasonality.

Creativity sometimes comes at the most obscure moments; during the night, whilst browsing through cookery books and even while performing the most mundane of daily chores. I don’t need a particular environment because it literally comes at any time.

The interior of The Parsons Table, the restaurant Lee Parsons runs with wife Liz.

6. What time of day does your brain come alive?

My brain is always alive. Feeding up to 80 people a day in The Parsons Table it has to be. In general, and it’s a hazard of the job, I am wide awake into the early hours of the morning after a long day in the kitchen. It’s peaceful, everyone is asleep and that’s sometimes when I get a lot of my creative work done.

7. What advice would you give to someone wanting to do what you do?

Prepare yourself mentally, this isn’t a cake walk. It’s one of the most rewarding careers in the world but it’s also one of the hardest. Long unsociable hours, high adrenalin during busy services and a constant drive to improve and make that dish perfect.

It’s incredible and some days I feel like I’ve run a marathon. If you think that cooking is what the TV shows portray, then you’d better change your career choice.

A humble mackerel is transformed into edible art by chef Lee Parsons.

8. What do you do when you lose sight of your inspiration?

I don’t know actually, I never have done! Going fishing certainly resets my equilibrium but spending time with my girls relaxes me and allows me to let my hair down (metaphorically obviously!) in an otherwise stressful week.

9. Tell us one thing about yourself that no one would guess?

I love my slippers!

These photos have made me hungry! Lee Parson's bream dish, which he serves at The Parsons Table in Arundel, West Sussex.

10. What’s next for you?

Fish mongery, followed by butchery and veg prep. All completed by 11:30am to be ready for lunch service. What’s next for the business? We shall see…..

* Food photography by Sussex-based photographer Emma Croman.