Can you recall the moment or moments in which you made the decision to make food your life and what was it?
My apprenticeship was as much about having a job, being in a structured environment and learning, as it was about food and cookery. It was only once I had left Claridge’s and joined The Square that I felt a deep connection to food and a desire to open my own restaurant. It was at that point, aged 23, that I think I felt this was going to be my life forever.
How would you define the difference in food style between your four restaurants?
I often think it would have been easier to have four restaurants all serving the same menu, same suppliers, same price point. In fact, I know it would….
But in fact, deep down as a cook I love all forms of cookery from simple bistro food through to Michelin star refined cuisine. I also love having four sites that offer a variation on my style of cookery in different environments.
Upstairs is casual in its approach and celebrates food of the moment that is seasonal. The menu changes daily, the food has a Mediterranean slant to it, but also doesn’t shy away from the use of spice and Asian ingredients.
Charlie’s at Brown’s Hotel, is a restaurant most definitely geared towards its targeted clientele. The food is recognisable, familiar to the Mayfair crowd but delivered to a very high level in my style.
I am enjoying cooking with more international flavours than I do at Trinity, using spices and North African and Indian influences. For me it sits really nicely with the eccentric feel of the hotel. This helps give the food offering an edge of interest and a more diverse approach.
Trinity is the organic development of thirteen years of a restaurant life in food. Prime ingredients, excellent chefs and a disciplined kitchen that delivers a four course menu aimed at higher level dining, celebration meals and much more of an experience. Trinity is the premium range in the set but is far more than just four plates of food – the service, our wine list, the little personalised touches are pretty special too.
As amazing as the hospitality industry is, is there anything you would change about it or the path it’s on?
Yes, stop making the journey from college apprentice to head chef acceptable in a matter of a few years. It’s ok to spend ten years growing up through the ranks and learning your craft. There are a lot of very senior well-paid chefs out there with large parts of the repertoire missing.
I personally don’t have as much of an issue as some of my peers with the hours and lack of work life balance – I know for sure some of the most developmental and exciting years of my life were working ten shifts a week living on Mars Bars. I wouldn’t swap that for the world – it made men of boys.
I would like to see the FOH get the recognition they deserve for the role they play in hospitality. These guys are incredible, but the trade craft is falling away.
It is now been four years since you started working with bartlett mitchell. How would you describe your relationships with them and how do you feel it’s made an impact?
I would love to think I have made an impact on bartlett mitchell. I have really enjoyed the journey to date, the people I have met, that I now call friends, and getting to understand the great work that catering companies do.
I would like to think I give the team at bartlett mitchell the confidence to approach a client knowing that our food is up to date and of the moment – not directly because of me, but because of the confidence and assurance I hopefully give the team. They should feel as though, if we had to, we could deliver anything!
The masterclasses for the chefs at Trinity are brilliant and I love scrolling through social media and seeing little things I have done with the team that they have adapted and recreated in their units.
I am very proud to be associated with a company that is growing at the rate bartlett mitchell is, both reputationally and financially – I am certainly richer and more rounded as a professional from my work with bartlett mitchell over the last four years.
With London and the UK being such a hot bed for culinary talent, do you think it’s getting harder to stand out in the market or is that something that doesn’t bother you?
Absolutely correct. When I opened my first restaurant back in 2001 within eight months, I had a two front covers, a plethora of awards and four national broadsheet reviews – it wasn’t that good! There just were not that many special restaurants.
Trying to get recognized in London now is very hard unless you already have a profile and filling that restaurant is another story all together!
Having said that – I do absolutely believe that cream ALWAYS floats to the top…
What are you watching or reading at the minute?
Gardeners’ World is my favourite programme. If I didn’t cook, I would work with plants and in gardens.
Food wise, I just finished Gabrielle Hamilton’s appearances on The Mind of a Chef – I love her approach to food so much.
I have to watch something on my iPad when I get home at midnight to enable me to sleep – I’m on Breaking Bad for the third time now. Love it and it takes me about six months to get through it.
I’m reading Ant Middleton’s The Fear Bubble (on an audiobook when I run) and Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour.
Who do you think is the person or restaurant “to watch” at the minute?
Richard McLellan has just opened Wilder in Shoreditch. Richard worked with me – I have never met a more talented cook. He is the real deal and has the full package.
Ben Marks at Perilla is a creative talent with food. I hope all of his dreams come true.
What is the one restaurant from any point in time or in the world that you would have liked to work in but never had the chance?
Harvey’s all day long. I was born to work there, just missed it by half an era.
But in fact, I am more rounded and softer in my approach for not having worked there. It certainly influenced me.
What are people’s biggest misconceptions about you?
I am pretty focused in my day to day and have a lot of bases to cover and that can may come across as a little scary or hard perhaps – I am in fact a real softie, very emotional, often quite playful and care deeply about my team’s welfare.