In the kitchen with Tom Kerridge

Two Michelin starred chef Tom Kerridge chats to SoGlos about growing up in Gloucester, achieving culinary success, supporting Gloucester Rugby and reveals a surprising last supper choice, inspired by his West Country roots.

As chef proprietor of the first pub to be awarded two coveted Michelin stars, Gloucester’s Tom Kerridge has certainly gone on to achieve culinary acclaim since cutting his teeth in the kitchens of the county’s top restaurants.

Tom then set his sights on London where he worked with well known chefs including Gary Rhodes and Steve Bull, before going on to open The Hand & Flowers with his wife Beth – with tables at the Marlow gastropub booked months in advance.

The West Country chef is returning to his Gloucester roots this spring to hold a talk and Q&A session at the University of Gloucestershire, offering budding chefs and foodies alike the chance to discover more about the home-grown talent.

What first inspired you to get into cooking?

To be honest, it wasn’t food, it was the kitchen environment. When I went into a kitchen as a chef at the age of 18 it was the way people worked together, talked, the whole thing about the industry in the late 90s that I fell in love with rather than a love of food and making cakes.

Did it live up to its expectations?

More so, it’s been amazing. It has been an incredible journey and still is; it’s brilliant.

What are you looking forward to about next month’s talk at the University of Gloucestershire?

It’s the Q&A that I’m looking forward to, finding out people’s ideas and what they want to know. I find it very bizarre but hugely flattering the people are actually interested in what I have to say!

It’s an amazing part of the world and I’m very proud to come from Gloucester.

What are you tips for budding chefs?

I think so many people want so much for nothing these days but everything, not just for this industry, is down to hard work. If you want to be the best surgeon you have to work hard, do lots of hours and gain experience, if you want to be a top city banker or a sportsman it’s exactly the same.

It’s all about commitment and sacrifices, and it doesn’t matter what profession it is, you just have to dig deep and push on.

And it is long term, none of it is overnight. There’s no such thing as overnight success, I’ve been a chef for 25 years; it takes graft and bloody-mindedness to keep going, so that’s the one thing that I think is most important.

Do you like coming back to where you grew up?

Yeah, my mum and my brother both still live in Gloucester so I love coming back. It’s an amazing part of the world and I’m very proud to come from Gloucester.

Are there certain places you always visit when you come back?

To be honest, it’s normally spent with family; either hanging at my brother’s in Quedgley or at my mum’s. We’re very fortunate as she lives just round the corner from Kingsholm so going to the rugby is quite a big thing. I’m definitely coming back for the Bath match in March.

Do you keep any eye on the local restaurant scene?

I’m a very big fan of Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham. I think what David and Helen Everitt-Matthias do is fantastic.

The food scene in Gloucestershire is growing more and more and we should be very proud of it. There are a couple of pubs that are doing well, there’s The Butcher's Arms that won a Michelin star and Gloucester Services is now country renowned for what it’s trying to do to change people’s perceptions about service station and we should be very proud of the West Country for that.

Would you ever think of opening somewhere in Gloucestershire?

Never say never, but to be honest, the growth of our business always comes from staff. It’s not about the idea of opening a restaurant and then trying to find people to put in it, it’s having the people in the first place who are growing and then want to do their own place.

It took us almost 10 years to open our second site and it’s 10-minute walk up the road from The Hand & Flowers so The Coach has been an organic growth of staff rather than us saying ‘let’s open another site’.

If you’ve got rubbish friends you’re always going to have a rubbish meal – change your friends!

How important is teamwork in your industry?

We’re nothing without the team and that’s always very important to remember. It’s not about individuals, there are certain careers and jobs where it’s all about being individual based, but being in the catering industry most definitely isn’t, it’s one that’s team built.

What’s been your career highlight so far?

I think the achievement of being the first pub to win two Michelin stars is most definitely the career highlight. On a personal level it’s a phenomenal thing to have done but on a professional level again that is down to people the team having worked really hard to get it.

Has your cooking style adapted over the years?

I’ve always been very comfortable in my skin and always been happy to be me so my food has always been solid, robust, honest cooking which I hope is a reflection of my personality and everything that we stand for with British pubs.

Most of the kitchens I worked in specialised in classic French cooking so I’ve learnt to cook in a very solid French style using stocks and sauces and dairy but embracing British ingredients.

Do you have favourite ingredients?

I’m a huge fan of dairy; it offers so much in the way of richness but also seasoning wise. Things you get from cheeses, such as saltiness or even a sour flavour, works very well with cooking.

Do you enjoy writing books and doing television as well?

I think as a 40-year-old bloke, finding yourself a new trade is quite interesting. I’ll only do things that are fun so I’ll only write books that make sense and inspire people to cook things at home. In terms of television, it needs to be something that I think is a worthwhile cause or fun to do; I don’t want to do it just for the sake of it.

Tell us about your new shows

Food Detectives helps people improve their baking at home and then we've got Bake Off: Crème de la Crème which is a professional version of The Great British Bake Off that comes out in spring.

What do you think are the key elements to a good meal?

It’s not just about food, it’s about service, environment, expectations and the company you keep. If you’ve got rubbish friends you’re always going to have a rubbish meal – change your friends!

And finally, what would be your last meal and why?

When I was growing up in Gloucester my favourite used to be Danny Dykes fish and chips shop. I know it’s still there but it’s not owned by Danny anymore so I would go back in time and have fish and chips and a can of Lilt for my last meal.

By Anna Marshall

© SoGlos
Monday 29 February 2016

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