Robert Taylor, Chef/Owner, Tallow restaurant: “To stay busy, stay consistent and stay relevant”

The Staff Canteen

Head chef and owner of FINE DINING RESTAURANT Tallow, Robert Taylor, is equally humble and passionate about bringing his modern British cuisine to Tunbridge Wells and UK foodies.

Talking about how he decided on the name Tallow, Robert confirms, “There were lots of names flying about”. A last-minute suggestion, which has since become synonymous with the head chef’s food style caught his attention — and Tallow stuck. “The idea behind it suits my style of food, which is quite rich, quite indulgent,” Robert continues.

“I use a lot of animal fats to cook with and those sorts of flavours, so Tallow just seemed to fit,” Robert says. It was lucky, too, as the head chef landed on the name just in time to authorise all the restaurant’s signage and make finalisations to the business.

Remain in recognition

On a personal level, upon opening its doors, Robert’s big achievement was to become one of the UK’s top 100 restaurants. “We did that within about three and a half months of being open, which was amazing,” says Robert. “We’ve come off again now, but hopefully we’ll get back on it,” humbly adds Robert. A reflection of the ever-expanding, competitive and challenging landscape.

Industry recognition and being the best at his craft motivate Robert’s creations. “It’s a nice pat on the back; you know you’re being voted by your peers, and that means you’re doing something right,” says Robert. Above all else though, the head chef’s aspirations are “to stay busy, stay consistent and stay relevant”, Robert emphasises, a feat the restaurant is excelling at.

Robert Taylor Tallow Restaurant Kent

Summing up style

Sources of inspiration come from within the kitchen and among other chefs. “The things that inspire me as a chef are flavours, ingredients, and just making sure that the ingredients we use aren’t overworked,” says Robert. Keeping them as tasty and as fresh as possible is key. Other chefs propel Robert to create something different. “There are some really good chefs out there doing really good food, and it inspires you to want to do better,” Robert adds.

Tallow’s food style can be described as modern British. Drawing on influences from everywhere, Robert expresses it’s also important to keep it simple but super tasty. “All we’re trying to achieve is the kind of food we want to eat when we go out,” says Robert. Making it his kitchen policy, Robert says, “we don’t try to shock anybody with strange flavours, just keep it tasty”.

Robert values the balance between local produce and quality cuisine from international suppliers, ensuring the best products possible. “We use good local food but also good food from further afield.” Currently, one of Tallow’s most popular dishes is barbecued monkfish, served with Thai green curry sauce, puff toasted rice, and roasted butternut squash. “It’s really, really flavoursome,” Robert enthuses.

Walking the industry’s tightrope

Rising energy and staffing costs are significant hurdles the industry is battling, elevating Tallow’s need to keep costs under control and be cautious with staffing levels. Costs and staffing issues are “difficult to balance without sacrificing the quality of service or quality of food, it’s a real kind of tightrope to walk”, Robert shares.

Robert Taylor Tallow restaurant Kent

Clearly, in a tough environment like this, it’s important for businesses to stand out, and marketing through online channels such as Instagram is important to Tallow’s continued success and presence. A photographer visits once a month to photograph the restaurant’s new menus, which changes every single month, consistently featuring three starters, three mains, three desserts, and a tasting menu.

Telling their story on Instagram is a big part of connecting with customers. Currently, Tallow has three chefs, including Robert and two front-of-house staff and three part-time staff members. “So we’re a very small close-knit team,” says Robert.

Tallow’s main downstairs restaurant has a maximum capacity of 26 covers. “We never double-book tables; once you book a table, it’s yours for the evening,” says Robert. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. “So we get every Sunday and Monday off as a team, which is quite nice, and it works with staffing levels to have a five-day week,” says Robert.

The restaurant also has its Chef’s Table upstairs, which seats eight people. “It’s a really nice extra space to have; it gives people a little bit more insight into the products that we use and the background that goes into each dish,” Robert adds. The Chef’s Table is always available to book per chair on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Robert Taylor Tallow Restaurant Kent

Be in hospitality, wholeheartedly

What advice would I give someone coming into the industry as a chef? “Do it, it’s a great industry,” Robert shares. Reminiscing over how positive it’s been for him, Robert relays, “It’s been hard work, but it’s been really rewarding. I’ve worked in some great places, with some great people, and made some great friends. It’s a really good way of life”.

Caveating this positive industry picture with some consideration, Robert says, “But you have to be in it”. When you know you are, the world’s your oyster. “Just enjoy it for what it is and don’t rush to try and be head chef, don’t rush to try and get the next promotion, just focus, keep your head down, work hard and learn as much as you can,” says Robert.

As for the ethos Tallow, led by head chef, Robert, lives by? “We don’t try to compete with anybody else,” says Robert. “We just do what we do, and we do it as well as we can.”

Written by: Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe


In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd April 2024

Robert Taylor, Chef/Owner, Tallow restaurant: “To stay busy, stay consistent and stay relevant”