As he prepares to open On5 restaurant at Ascot Racecourse, Tom Kerridge discusses seasons, bacon and the chef he considers ‘the Ayrton Senna of the culinary world’
His pub The Hand and Flowers was the first gastropub ever to be awarded two Michelin stars, but Tom Kerridge, 40, is still as grounded in his passion for straightforward but excellent British food as ever. Kerridge began his career working at London restaurants Rhodes in the Square and Odettes, before eventually becoming head chef at the Michelin-starred Adlards in Norwich. He and his wife Beth opened The Hand and Flowers in Marlowe, Buckinghamshire in 2005, claiming their first Michelin star within 12 months and the second six years later in 2012. His cooking is rooted in the classic French style but he remains committed to British ingredients and seasonality in his dishes.
Who or what is your culinary inspiration?
There’s not really anyone in particular, but I am inspired by people who have an everyday understanding of British ingredients, in the same way that we do. There are so many inspirational chefs and places to eat all over the world, and I’m inspired by chefs who are trying to be good at what they do and who smile and have a nice time as they do it.
What are your three favourite ingredients?
Dairy for me is really important. It’s important to have an understanding of how dairy ingredients can work in your food. For example, crème fraîche has an acidity that cuts through richness, and the salt in cheese can be used as a seasoning. Dairy ingredients are more to me than just adding double cream to something to make it rich.
Pork is amazing. It’s a great piece of meat as you can eat the whole animal and its flavour is never offensive. It’s a mild meat, and without pork there’s no bacon, and a world without bacon is a bad space.
Last is water. It’s one of the most important ingredients in cooking and not for boiling. It’s used in sauces and when you’re cooking steaks and for flash steaming … Getting the combination of water and salt right is the key to enhancing food, but get it wrong and you can ruin it!
What is the world’s best restaurant right now?
One of the best meals I’ve ever had is at Andre Chang’s RestaurantAndre in Singapore. But I also had a brilliant dining experience at Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare in New York. It’s a brilliant concept and well deserves its three Michelin stars. In this country, Sat Bains is the most dynamic and driven chef. He’s the Ayrton Senna of the culinary world. The food at Restaurant Sat Bains is very different to what we do, but as a chef, I think he is amazing.
What’s your favourite national or regional cuisine?
To be honest it’s British food. Even on this small island, every dish you can think of has a local version. Take Lancashire Hotpot and the Cornish pasty – they’re similar in ingredients and they gave you the same ‘I’m full of food’ feeling. We are very fortunate in this country because even though we go through the moves weather-wise, we have four definite seasons and the produce changes that they bring. The changing season keeps our food interesting. We’re very lucky!
Who are your favourite food writers?
I have a huge amount of respect for Matthew Fort. He’s a true honest gentlemen, and so knowledgeable. He’s at the forefront of what’s happening in food, but isn’t swayed by what’s fashionable. His understanding of chefs and cooks is first rate. Tim Hayward is someone else whose writing I admire as well.
What’s one piece of equipment you couldn’t live without?
At work it’s the Pacojet, the blender that works with frozen produce making ice cream and parfaits, savouries and sweet. It’s in use for easily 90 per cent of the day, and our kitchen is largely based around it. At home, I’m fond of my Nespresso coffee machine, which is also probably on 90 per cent of the time!
What’s the one meal you would abolish?
Pizza with ham and pineapple. I don’t understand it. Essentially it’s dough with tomato, ham and cheese. A cheese, ham and tomato sandwich makes sense but what part of your brain would say put some pineapple on that? Why do we do it on pizza?
What should we cook for dinner tonight?
Slow cooked shoulder of lamb with boulangère potatoes. Cook the meat slowly at 140-150C for 4 ½ to 5 hours with herbs and spices – it’s the best tea you’ll have ever!
Tom Kerridge is hosting Royal Ascot’s restaurant On5 from 17 to 21 June 2014. For more information visit ascot.co.uk or to book call 0844 346 0346.
Read this article as it originally appeared in The Daily Telegraph