Tom Kerridge, the first ever chef to clinch two Michelin stars for pub food at his restaurant The Hand and Flowers in Marlow has opened his first restaurant in London at the Corinthia Hotel. In London, it has been considered as one of the hottest openings of the year.
“It is a big deal for me personally. I know it is massive but it is not daunting because I worked in London for 10 years before I opened the Hand and Flowers in Marlow,” the British chef told Food and Wine Gazette in an interview at Tom Kerridge Bar and Grill.
Tom is a household name in the UK and beyond. He became popular not just for his two restaurants in Marlow but also because of his programmes on the BBC apart from having authored many cookbooks. Over the past years, he has inspired many for taking matters in hand when he turned 40, cutting alcohol competely and eliminating carbs from his diet losing 12 stones or 76 kilogrammes in weight in the process.
“It is a city I know well, a city I am comfortable with. I am in London for a lot of projects sometimes twice, sometimes even 4 times a week so to have a London space was always going to be a progression for me but to actually open such a space is exciting,” he said.
Tom knows that this is a different kettle of fish. He became famous for The Hand and Flowers and his second restaurant The Coach in Marlow, the small Chiltern town got a Michelin star soon after its opening but he knows that the London space is completely different.
“The room here fits our two restaurants in Marlow in one space. It is a big, vast dining room but it is a beautiful space. It is a big and busy London brasserie and this is fantastic. Our focus remains British produce so the idea is to offer the same warmth of hospitality as we do in Marlow despite the size,” Tom said.
That fits well with the Corinthia ethos which puts hospitality at the centre of its offering. “We are trying very hard to get the DNA of the places in Marlow into the dining room here. If you eat with us in Marlow, one day at The Hand and the Flowers, one day at The Coach and the next night you are here, you will be able to see that the food comes from the same stable, so to speak. For me this is hugely important. It allows you to be personal, to have the same characteristics and the same skills as a company that it becomes recognisable,” he said.
The opening has attracted Londoners who may have never taken the journey to Marlow but who have always wondered about Kerridge’s cuisine.
So what’s the aim of this restaurant, I ask Tom. “We have two stars and one star in Marlow. This is a very different space. The pubs in Marlow are all about the guests and the hospitality they receive when they come into the door. We want to have exactly the same vibe here, where everyone feels welcome, where the price point is comfortable and where they can enjoy real ale and a nice roast beef. What is important is to do the simple things in hospitality well,” he said.
“Of course, it would be lovely to have awards and recognition but for me the focus has always been the guests. As a chef you should never cook for the guidebooks, you should always cook for the guests. If the guests are enjoying it, that’s perfect,” he said. “The guidebooks are written not for the chefs but for the customers. If you and the guidebooks are on the same wavelength of providing what the guests want, maybe the awards will come.”
Tom said that the team had an understanding of the commitment needed to achieve awards and an understanding of the consistency required not only with regard to produce but also hospitality. “We have people who have been with us for 11, 12 and even 16 years. And the company has grown to the point where it has its own DNA. It is not me, but it is all of us together,” he emphasises.
The British chef speaks about the importance of his team for the growth of his restaurant group. “We have grown not because of my desire to open restaurants but rather because of my team’s desire to grow. People join us in the company because we are seen as progressive and moving forward, we really encourage staff to grow not only professionally but also personally.”
Tom believes that it is not just professional development that is essential but also personal. “When you can grow professionally, that helps you personally because you know where you are going and it makes things clearer as to what people want to achieve in life. This is very important as a company.”
The chef heading the London bar and grill at the Corinthia is Nick Beardshaw who has worked with Tom for the past eight years. He was sous-chef at the Hand and Flowers and then he went to be the head chef of The Coach where he earned a Michelin star. The sous chef who was there is now head chef and Nick has moved here. This is a growth process. As we grow older and develop more skills, the net grows but it is not through my desire but rather through the people’s desire for the company to grow.”
Don’t miss our in-depth interview with Tom Kerridge on Food and Wine Gazette in the coming days. We touch upon the difficulties he faced when he embarked on a life-changing process to lose weight, the importance of his team in his restaurant group’s growth and how he tries to achieve balance in life despite his growing number of restaurants and media work.