Tomas Lidakevicius, Head Chef, Peninsula restaurant, InterContinental London – The O2

The  Staff Canteen

He’s been head chef at the Peninsula Restaurant at InterContinental London – The O2 for seven months but before this role Tomas Lidakevicius trained in some of London’s best Michelin-starred kitchens.

Originally from Lithuania he had never heard of Michelin stars before he came to London, but he has since honed his skills at Galvin at Windows, Corrigan’s Mayfair, Tickets and City Social.
Now in his first head chef role he is enjoying producing his own style of food, which is also very popular with his 55,000 Instagram followers!

The Staff Canteen spoke to Tomas about working in Michelin kitchens and what he learnt, his food style and why he is such a fan of Instagram.

Tomas Lidakevicius - Peninsula Restaurant

Tomas Lidakevicius

Peninsula Restaurant

Have you always wanted to be a chef?

When I was young my mum worked at home and always used to cook, I used to help her out and then when she stopped I started cooking. School wasn’t for me and my dad heard about a chef school which I didn’t want to do and I didn’t get in at first. In the end I finished at this school with the top marks – the next day I was in London. When I came to London I didn’t even know what a Michelin star was!

That was nine years ago, how has your career progressed since coming to London?

When I first came over I worked on a building site while I was looking for a job but my first kitchen was in the St Stephen’s private members club. I was there for three years and it was an amazing job, there was a lot of time to experiment with food. Then I went to work for Andre Garett at Galvin at Windows and when I first went there my jaw was wide open. I used to call my mum and tell her ‘it’s unbelievable it’s like something from the movies’. I moved from there to Corrigan’s Mayfair and worked under Chris McGowan – he was a machine! The style of food there wasn’t for me, they used to make meaty pies and really good, rich food but I like to play around more with food so I moved to Texture.

You spent a year at Texture, how did it compare to other kitchens? Was it more your style of cooking?

Texture was different and so was Agnar Sverrisson’s cooking. I started on garnish as a demi chef, I had been senior chef de partie at Corrigan’s, but I really wanted to work here. In some ways it was an amazing job and in others it was really hard. There was a lot of pressure, everything you did was checked but it made you like a soldier so you knew what you need to do, how you need to do it and what time you need to do it. It was a really good experience and what I learnt there is still with me. It developed me and the way I cook now. I moved to City Social with Paul Walsh and his cuisine was absolutely different from Agnar’s – they are like day and night. But what I learnt there was how to manage people, Paul’s heart was the biggest and he’s an amazing guy.

Your first experience in a hotel was the Corinthia which you say was really hard and you are now head chef at the Peninsula Restaurant based in the InterContinental at the O2 – how did that come about and what is your style of food?

Peninsula Restaurant- Dover Sole, Langoustine, Leef and Samphire, Shellfish Bisque

Peninsula Restaurant

Dover Sole, Langoustine, Leef

and Samphire, Shellfish Bisque

The Corinthia gave me the opportunity to start doing my own food, that’s when I first started using Instagram. My style is modern British but there are small touches of Lithuania too. I don’t want to bring too much from Lithuania but there are little touches so on the pork dish there is a potato sausage – at home we stuff the sausage skin with potato, bake it and serve it with sour cream. We have a butter sour cream which is called kastinys, it has hemp seeds, cumin, garlic salt all beaten together until it is set and we serve it with a potato dish. But I think my style has a little bit of influence from everywhere, being in London which is so multicultural, the chefs in the kitchens are form everywhere so you always pick up new things. 

It’s your first head chef role, how are you finding it?

It was hard, and we are still learning. The location means that a lot of people still don’t know about us and if it’s quiet I still have four or five chefs in the kitchen.  I’m really lucky with the team I have, three came with me and two were here already. I took on another through Instagram, he messaged and asked for a job!

Everyone is involved in the menu, if a chef says ‘Tom we should try it this way’ we will try it and together we make it perfect. I only look after the Peninsula, the brasserie downstairs deals with room service and breakfast.

You changed the menu in January, what inspires your dishes?

I have to think a lot about the clients who stay here, I can’t just do what I want if the clients don’t like it. The most important thing is season but I’m also very interested in preserving things. Downstairs, for banqueting they can easily do 2000 covers, they had say 30 kilos of white asparagus left over which they were going to use for staff food but I said no. I took them away, preserved them and now they are on the menu. I know a lot of people do fermentation now but for me at home in Lithuania, my mum used to do it and everything was fermented. I try to keep just a few elements on the plate but sometimes these ingredients can be like night and day, I like to play around with different products.

At the moment we have a la carte and two tasting menus, one is vegetarian. I’m slowly changing how we work from the plates to the style of food, it was classic French before. Inside the restaurant I want it to be more of a natural look, and I have new plates as I need more room for my puree swipe!

Peninsula Restaurant - Blood Orange Cheesecake, Meringue, White Chocolate Crumb, Biscotti Ice Cream

Peninsula Restaurant

Blood Orange Cheesecake, Meringue, White

Chocolate Crumb, Biscotti Ice Cream

Do you have any ingredients you particularly like to work with?
I like fish and pork, pork is probably because of when I was cooking back home. Pork is brilliant, you can use every single bit of it.

You’ve mentioned Instagram, how big a part does social media play in your role as a chef?

Everyone has a phone so it is a big part, I like how easy Instagram is and its good way to get known by other chefs plus you can see what other people are doing. I have a family so it’s not easy to go to all these restaurants in the UK and around the world so Instagram lets me see these dishes. It played a part in me getting this role too – it’s like a business card, people look at what you can do. It’s very visual, inspiring and I think it’s brilliant.

What about accolades? How important are they to you?

We have two rosettes and I’m hoping in the next year we will get a third. A star is a dream, just to know how it feels to get one! We got one at City Social after four months but I missed it as I was on holiday – I had to watch them celebrating on Skype.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to stay in London and I really want this place to be a success. I always used to think about doing something myself but I think you need a Michelin star or a name for yourself to guarantee the business will survive. In the future it would be cool but when I have a place like this to work with I’m not thinking about it right now.

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 2nd February 2017

Tomas Lidakevicius, Head Chef, Peninsula restaurant, InterContinental London – The O2