10 Minutes With: Tom Sellers - A Kind of Love Story

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th November 2016

Tom Sellers, chef patron of Restaurant Story which holds a star in the Michelin Guide UK, talks to The Staff Canteen about his new book - A Kind of Love Story.

>>> Read our feature with Tom to find out more about him

It’s been a long time in the making…. well 29 years if you want to be exact! But last month Tom Sellers, chef patron of Michelin-starred Restaurant Story which also holds four rosettes in the AA Restaurant Guide, laid his life to date bare across the pages of his first book.

From the outside it’s beautifully finished but on the inside it is, by his own admission, not. It’s the story so far and there is not a measurement, method or temperature in sight. What? A chef has written a book which contains no recipes? The answer is yes.

A Kind of Love  Story by Tom Sellers

“I’ve been working on the book a very long time,” explained Tom. “It is about a moment in time and it doesn’t define the way I feel forever.

“I didn’t want to use recipes because I don’t use them in my kitchen, I train young chefs to understand food and the methodology behind why we cook it in certain ways and because ultimately every day is different – the water content of a cucumber is different every day, the temperature of the kitchen is different every day.

“I’m not saying it’s the right way or the wrong way – I just wanted to give reason to why we cook like that.”

Tom wanted to talk in the book about the way food made him feel, the things he does with food and why he does it – he wanted the book to be a real representation of him. It is a collection of memories describing Tom’s greatest influences including anecdotes from his time in some of the worlds’ best kitchens – including his own. Tom also describes his family life, childhood and the potent moments that have inspired his complex, narrative-led dishes.

 “Anyone who knows me knows I’m very honest,” said Tom. “I’m very straight down the line and I wanted the book to reflect that.”

He added: “I wanted it to be a true reflection of the industry, I didn’t want it to feel airbrushed or styled in a way that made it out to be something it’s not. I wanted it to be a true insight into the industry, the chefs that I’d worked with and what I had done at the restaurant.”

WIN

We have two signed copies of A Kind of Love Story by Tom Sellers to give away.

All you have to do to enter is send the answer to the question below, along with your details to: cara@thestaffcanteen.com  by  midnight on Thurday, November 17.

What is the name of Tom Sellers' Michelin-starred restraurant?

*Full terms and conditions here 

Tom credits industry giants such as Tom Aikens, Thomas Keller, Adam Byatt and Rene Redzepi as key influences in his culinary life and in the book he says ‘each is a genius’. They all have a reputation which demands respect, and reputation is something Tom is no stranger to as his often comes before him. He’d be the first to admit he often divides opinion and it begs the question is this book in part a vehicle to change perceptions?

“I don’t think it was about me wanting people to understand me more. I very much focus on what I’m doing and I try very hard not to listen to the things which are outside of that. I definitely didn’t write a book with the single aim of wanting people to see the real side of me.

“It has a level of integrity to it in that I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing chefs, step foot in some of the most amazing kitchens, at a young age open my own restaurant and for that to go on and get good notoriety and accolades of distinction I wanted to achieve.

“I wanted to put that out there to the generation who are alongside me. There are a lot of young people at this moment who are striving to be chefs and want to be in this industry and I can’t remember the last time I picked up a book and it was refreshingly honest.”

A Kind of Love Story by Tom Sellers
A Kind of Love Story by Tom Sellers

He added: “Like the book or dislike the book, I just wanted people to see there was a lot of work had gone in to it, it’s been done very well, it’s had a lot of thought and it’s beautifully made. It’s everything I would want a book to be.”

Fully supported by the publisher, Tom didn’t feel pressured to write a book he didn’t want to, he didn’t feel he had to have recipes or other predictable ‘chef book’ elements.

“I was very lucky,” said Tom. “I basically wrote a book which I wanted to write. That was a big reason I decided to do the book because the publishers were willing to support me.”

Holding your life in your hand, literally in Tom’s case, can be a daunting prospect but he believes the finished product is pretty close to what he wanted it to be.

“When I got the book and flicked through the pages and read the words – it was a big moment. I was apprehensive and nervous and all the things you would be.

“I just hoped people would read it and enjoy it, it’s informative without throwing it down your throat and it’s just an opinion but it’s the way I cook and think.”

“I am a young cook and I am still learning,” Tom continued. “I am still evolving – I have another twenty or thirty years in this industry and I wanted the book to feel like that.”

When he was writing it he says he ‘always realised he’d feel differently about it when it was published’ and there are several things in the book he feels differently about today.

A Kind of Love Story by Tom Sellers
A Kind of Love Story by Tom Sellers

“I always knew that, I think that’s why I always wanted the book to feel like it was about the now. I was aware this book would divide opinion and people would want to say certain things but being frank, I’ve dealt with that for the last god knows how long!”

The imagery within the book follows Tom’s vision of not being stylised. The photographs have a sense of movement and reality to them – an insight into his life in the kitchen.

“It’s very easy to get lost in things which people tell you to do. I wanted to write a book that was real, I wasn’t ready to do a book on the restaurant because it’s nowhere near where I want it to be yet – it’s still evolving and it’s still growing. But I was prepared to write a book about why I cook and who I cooked with because those things had happened in my life and had shaped where I am today.

 “I think if you are going to write something, if you are going to put something down then it needs to be a true reflection of yourself.”

By Cara Houchen

@canteencara  

 A Kind of Love Story by Tom Sellers is published by Orion in hardback at £35, eBook £17.99

Photography: Jay Brooks

>>> Read more in the 10 Minutes With series here 

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th November 2016

10 Minutes With: Tom Sellers - A Kind of Love Story