Meet the chef - Spencer Burge, Bertram's Restaurant
PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 October 2018
Talented chef Spencer Burge has driven Bertram's Restaurant in Burnley to success
When Spencer Burge started work at Bertram’s Restaurant at Crow Wood Spa in Burnley, he knew there was work to do. At that point it was in the shadow of The Woodland Spa, the building where the restaurant sits. It was doing 20 and 30 covers a night.
Fast forward five years and your average Tuesday is packed out with more than 200 covers, Fridays and Saturdays are even busier. The dramatic turnaround is down to the 43-year-old Liverpool born chef.
‘We’re serving more than 87,000 covers per year,’ said Spencer, chef director of Crow Wood Leisure, which includes Bertram’s Restaurant. ‘When I first came to my interview I could see there were things that could be improved but I didn’t know whether I could say it.
‘I got the job and the owner, Andrew Brown, really listened to what I had to say. Since then, the success of the restaurant has just grown and grown.’
In those past five years Bertram’s has been awarded a string of accolades including Global Winner in the Best Luxury Restaurant category at the World Restaurant and Spa Awards - Spencer and Andrew flew to Vietnam to collect the prize. It won in the Luxury Spa Restaurant and Luxury Brasserie categories in the 2018 World Luxury Restaurant Awards, Bertram’s was awarded two AA Rosettes for its food and it received a Taste Lancashire Award at last year’s Lancashire Tourism Awards.
‘That award, for us, meant a lot,’ said Spencer. ‘Being a part of the spa means it can be difficult to establish your identity. It’s always been my aim for people across Lancashire to know who we are. Winning that, I knew we’d managed it.’
Spencer became a chef after he saw mum, Shirley, go from being Cilla Black’s hairdresser to also going into the industry. She worked as a sous in Albert Docks in Liverpool before running her own catering company. Both Spencer and his mum trained in hospitality at Halton College and both chose to enter the kitchen. Spencer has worked in various places including The Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool, at Aintree Racecourse, in a Roux brothers kitchen and at The Fence Gate. He also worked in Guernsey and the Isle of Man - an experience that proved a steep learning curve - as well as at the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences when they were held at Blackpool’s Imperial Hotel.
‘I cooked for Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair as well as lots of other high profile politicians,’ said Spencer. ‘It doesn’t make a difference that someone is famous, it’s exciting to know they have eaten your food, though.’
Those experiences have meant he’s been an ideal candidate to steer Bertram’s to success. Lancashire food is put in the spotlight on the menus - expect produce from A & O Seafood, Total Foodservice and Ribble Farm Fare.
In the next few weeks Spencer and his team will be managing the relaunch of Lounge, a casual dining and drinking space following a refurbishment. Early next year Crow Wood’s new £13 million 78-bedroom hotel will open its doors. In it will be a new 120 seat Italian restaurant and banqueting and wedding venue for 400 guests. This, like the other dining spaces at Crow Wood, will come under Spencer’s remit. Just as Bertram’s has been, the new restaurant, which will come with its own £1 million kitchen, will be a destination restaurant. But Spencer is not fazed.
‘I think we’re going through some exciting times at Crow Wood. We’re already in a great position where we’re able to impress our customers and the hotel will only add to that.
‘I love it, it’s a lot of fun. I’ve got a great team, many whom I’ve worked with for many years. We work well together and know how to get the best. I couldn’t think of anywhere better to be.’