But on one point he was crystal clear.
He wanted to infuse the menu with the very essence of the Manor’s historic and world-renowned gardens.
That transformation began immediately as he embraced the produce in the unique oval-walled Victorian kitchen garden and began crafting menus that showcased the widest variety of vegetables and flowers to greatest effect.
I predicted then, even in that first summer, that a Michelin star would not be long in the coming and George proved us right.
Since then, Gravetye’s reputation for the finest food has continued to soar.
But as George moved from head chef to executive chef it wasn’t until last year that the vision took on a more tangible form.
In the spring of 2018 a new restaurant was added to the building - a masterpiece of architecture which truly made the garden integral to the eating experience.
Walls of glass, a retractable central roof lantern, pillars shaped like the trunks of trees, stunning woodland murals, and a restored parquet flooring, transported diners from the hotel’s former dining room - of traditional oak panelling and marbled mantelpiece - into the garden itself.
The food and service has continued to blossom.
As the tasting menu exemplifies with such potency, the skill of the kitchen is first to identify the key textures and flavours, and then amplify them through contrasting accompaniments on the plate and enhanced with sophisticated wine pairings.
So the Newhaven Haddock is pristine white with its natural subtle saltiness illuminating the shellfish stew in which it is framed. The local Roe Venison is presented first to the diner it its naturally cooked form - pink, rare, tender - before being formally presented with chestnut and mushroom.
And just as the new restaurant takes the diner direct to the garden so chefs from the kitchen present some of the dishes they have crafted direct to the table completing a unique chain from cultivation, to cooking and ultimately consumption.
Gravetye is a bijoux hotel. It boasts neither spa nor extensive corridors of rooms.
But under the uncompromising eye of Managing Director Andrew Thomason, nothing is left to chance.
Every room is manicured to perfection. Bowls of flowers radiate with fresh blooms every day.
With four sommeliers, the wine list is impressive - do take their advice on pairings with dishes.
But the food and the gardens blend into the crowning glory.
For this is a quintessential English country house set in 1,000 acres of rolling Sussex parkland with a history dating back to Elizabethan times.
Its 35 acres of gardens were carefully created by William Robinson over 50 years are considered amongst the most influential in English gardening history. Flora and fauna is the theme within Gravetye Manor’s 17 bedrooms and suites too as each are named after tree species found on the estate with nods to the florals throughout the décor teamed with rich fabrics, fine antiques and hand crafted beds.
In 2014, George said that if he were to choose one element that made Gravetye supremely special it would be the kitchen garden.
“Lots of places say they grow fruits and vegetables for their own kitchen but 90 per cent don’t have the capacity or the gardeners to come even close to supplying 20 per cent of produce that’s needed.
There are only a very small number of places that can do it and we’re lucky enough to be coming the top of that list.”
He was right.
The food at Gravetye is exceptional. The new restaurant could not provide a finer setting.
For more information visit www.gravetyemanor.co.uk or call 01342 810567.
• Pick up a copy of this week’s paper (February 28) to take advantage of a superb reader offer of a three-course lunch with coffee for £36 – a saving of £10.