“Encouragement and staff growth is the most important ingredient for a successful business, it’s not about an individual, it’s always about the team”, says Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge.
At 18 years old Tom started his career washing up in the kitchen and fell in love with the environment, space and industry. “My favourite job is right now as the owner, operator and chef of The Hand and Flowers and The Coach, but as a young chef there was a period of about four years working in the heart of the West End of London, where I was burning the candle at both ends, thoroughly enjoying life,” he says.
Here, Tom shares his excitement for British pubs, why he stands by his beliefs, and his understanding of the building blocks of flavour, texture and balance.
Your favourite job is right now, but what was your worst moment in the kitchen?
The worst was probably the moment I put foie gras in the oven to gently poach for a terrine, forgot about it and went on a two hour break, the consequences of that were pretty horrible, but I never did it again!
From forgetting the foie gras in the oven to gaining two Michelin stars at The Hand and Flowers. What is your advice for aspiring restaurateurs?
Dig deep, believe in yourself and make sure that you are honest, not only with the customer but with yourself. Ask yourself everyday, is this honestly the best that this can be? If it’s not, push harder to make it better!
Is that the approach you take when creating and delivering hospitality?
We gain an understanding of customer wants and ensure that we meet that happy middle ground of standing by our beliefs, but with a compassion for customer expectation.
How do you define the philosophy behind The Hand and Flowers and The Coach?
Offer good food that is produce focused, served in comfortable and easy surroundings that everybody understands. I’m not trying to break the mould.
The Hand and Flowers opened over ten years ago, how do you continue to find inspiration to stay creative?
I consider myself a tradesman and as chefs, we all learn building blocks. The way that I cook and our dishes develop are all an understanding of method, a bit like constructing a wall, house or building, rather than artistic flare and creativity. It’s an understanding of the building blocks of flavour, texture and balance.
As an owner, operator, and chef – what keeps you up at night?
The fear that it will all end tomorrow. I think when you open a restaurant, you are driven everyday to make it work, and it never stops. I still fear everyday that no one will turn up. So that drive to ensure that the business works is the biggest fear and it never goes away.
What trends/developments in the industry today are you especially excited about?
There is so much more focus on growing your own, pickling, smoking and curing. That drive to almost post-war Britain and embracing what we are very good at in this country. We really are beginning to find our own identity of what British food is. And of course, the British pub sector is something I am incredibly proud of and really excited to be in the midst of it.
What’s next for you?
Continual growth of the company throughout the development of staff. Embracing opportunities that arrive, as long as they are the right things to do.
Photos courtesy of The Hand and Flowers