Leading Lights – Tom Kerridge

Since his last Stir it Up feature in 2016, Tom Kerridge’s star status has continued to rise with a business expansion and multiple new TV shows and appearances catapulting him to become one of the nation’s favourite personalities. We chatted to Tom about how his life has changed, coping with pandemics, the future of hospitality, his new book, working with Marcus Rashford and lots more. 

Since we last spoke, a lot has happened, how has your day-to-day life changed? 

I work as hard now and as many hours as I did when I was running the sauce section at the Hand & Flowers but it’s just different. It’s like having a hat stand with 20 different hats and I have to put different ones on, on different days.

Are you still in the kitchen as much as you would like to be?

One of the most special things about being a chef is zoning in on the produce and cooking. It’s the most beautiful world to enter. However, I also recognise that we have grown as a company organically because of the people in the business. If I sat still in that sauce section, the business doesn’t grow, the people don’t grow and people leave. I love seeing the business grow, watching people progress professionally but of course, I will always miss being in the kitchen cooking the meat and fish on a Saturday night.

Do you think the last year will have put people off a career in the kitchen? 

God no! The pandemic has affected so many businesses. It doesn’t matter if it’s hospitality, travel and tourism, music, performance, aviation – so many businesses have been hit. Hospitality is an incredible industry to be in. It’s filled with fantastic, positive people who do it as a passion. My advice to anyone who wants to get into hospitality is that you should unquestionably do it. 

You’ve been banging the drum to save pubs, is the government doing enough? 

No, the government isn’t doing enough for pubs and it does seem like they are unfairly penalised.  The wet led pubs in particular have had a very rough ride. It feels quite class-based the government’s thinking to hospitality; wet-led pubs are often in more economically challenged areas. They’re not gastro pubs serving flame-torched mackerel and they have been forgotten. These pubs are so important to people’s lives and are the social fabric of communities.

How have food trends been affected in the past 12 months and what will we be seeing more of in the future?

Food trends have fallen by the wayside a little I would say but, if anything moving forward, I think simplicity is going to be key throughout hospitality. I think there will be more chefs deciding they don’t need 15 mains and instead scaling back, focusing on seasonality and refocusing on the full hospitality experience that people have been missing out on.

You have achieved a lot already, what are your future goals?

Not once have we set ourselves a goal or a target. I’m an ambitious person and opportunities naturally appear but for me it’s about being a little bit better every day. Continuous improvement. No ambitions apart from keep going for ever, keep improving and keep enjoying it.

Who has been your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?

Marco Pierre-White. His book as a young 18-year-old chef was as inspirational as it got and he’s someone I have loved to follow. He was the cocky chef in trainers, a shaggy blue and white apron, smoking cigarettes and all of a sudden it was relatable. Not just as a lifestyle point of view but the guy went on and won three Michelin stars.

What about in the last year? 

Undoubtedly Marcus Rashford. A Man Utd icon, an England international, a young black role model and on top of that, a voice for a generation of children who have been forgotten. What he has done with the team he has built around him is just phenomenal.

Tell us about your campaign with Marcus. 

It’s called Full Time with Marcus and Tom and it’s made up of 52 recipes. The aim is to connect people with cooking who perhaps haven’t been able to for many reasons. Whether it’s social and economic or they are scared of the kitchen, it’s a skill set that young people should be learning. All the recipes are low budget and pocket friendly to help raise awareness of the Healthy Start vouchers which have increased in value thanks to Marcus’ work.

Which recipe from the campaign would you recommend?

The Ultimate Hot Dog. This is something we all know, love and recognise. It’s just like Pigs in Blankets with its curry powder topping which is reminiscent of the smell of German Christmas markets. It’s a safe dish that everyone will love, but has been taken to a new dimension.

What are your three outdoor cooking secrets?

  • Organisation – it takes a bit more time as you need to get the fire going so make a plan.
  • Marinades and dry rubs are fantastic to drive flavours.
  • Mix up your world flavours – the beautiful thing about outdoor cooking is you can mix a fantastic kimchi salad with a southern US slow-cooked sticky ribs. Be creative.

What is your favourite BBQ ingredient?

Coal or wood – don’t use gas. Use fuel you can taste.

What is your favourite ingredient for the BBQ?

Fermented Gochujang Korean paste at the moment. Not too spicy but great in mayonnaise, marinades, dips and glazes.