Adam Handling on his new venture, The Frog, E1

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th June 2016

Taking the ‘first leap’ with his independent venture, Adam Handling opened his new East London restaurant, The Frog, E1 yesterday. The Frog, E1, is the first of a number of these casual concept restaurants, planned to open across London in the coming months. We talk to Adam about the ambitious project and his end goal of opening his own signature fine dining restaurant, Restaurant Adam Handling.

The Frog team

 Adam and The Frog team (image from 

The Frog E1 Twitter)

When I arrived at Ely’s Yard next to The Old Truman Brewery in East London to speak to 27-year-old (yes, he is just 27!!) Adam Handling I was greeted by a building site – with just a few days until opening it was clear his team still had a lot to do. But, optimistic and determined as always Adam found me a seat among the chaos and took twenty minutes out of his busy life to tell me all about it, oh and to talk about being in the semi-finals of National Chef of the Year for the third year running, doing Great British Menu and being in the finals of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef – not doing things by halves then Adam?

“You know if someone stands on your chest, that’s how I feel right now!” Laughed Adam. “I’m always excited, by anything, I’m like a puppy when you take them to a new house. Any change is exciting, the team we have is an extremely positive one and my philosophy has always been – smile.

“The Frog project is very important to me because if I didn’t get a platform to showcase what I could do I’d not be where I am now. The concept is obviously about food but it’s also about providing a platform to young creatives, including musicians and artists. The food is obviously still central though and given our new location near some great food markets, the tasting menu will use produce from the local markets. It’s important to support these smaller producers and to go direct to the markets for produce – it also means I get great seasonal produce that will dictate what’s on the menu!”

Adam has brought his team of chefs with him from Adam Handling at Caxton in Westminster, which he left after a change in ownership of the hotel.

“Whilst the hotel provided my team and me with valuable years to really develop our cooking style and bond as a team, the direction they wanted to take the restaurant in wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in,” he explained. “It was sad on the last day, it felt like everything we’ve done for four years was over and that restaurant was my baby and so many of my chefs gave up so much just to stay working with me because of the mentality we had in the kitchen. But, the truth, it’s all been for this and we’re all very excited for what the next chapter holds.”

The aim of The Frog is that it is more accessible, a different clientele to Adam’s usual Westminster customers and with an emphasis on creativity not only within the cooking but right down to the art on the walls and the live music.

The Frog building site

The Frog - before (image from

The Frog E1 Twitter) 

“The style of my food will never change,” said Adam. “The ingredients we used before will be different but the dishes will be similar. So for example my turbot dish, I’ll be creating that again but using hake – it’s more sustainable and allows me to sell dishes for prices that are more appealing to everybody.

“The alcohol is going to be all micro-breweries, micro-vineyards and really niche products. There will be 22 different beers, 11 from the UK. BrewDog are helping me because what they do with beer is exactly as I want it; they make small batches, products that only last a month or two due to season and they really want to support local breweries.”

He added: “We are also doing art and music. We are having a set up so people can come and play their music, it doesn’t have to be a DJ you can come and play guitar, we don’t really care as long as they are passionate about what they do.  And the art on the walls will be done by young artists so they can showcase their art and sell it”

The location of The Frog is very different to Adam’s last restaurant. Located next to The Old Truman Brewery which is described as ‘East London's revolutionary arts and media quarter’ and when his development chef suggested it he thought he was crazy.

“Jamie Park (development chef for Adam Handling Ltd) found this location – I thought he was crazy! The idea for The Frog concept only came up when we found this place, before that it was just about opening Restaurant Adam Handling again. But seeing this area, the art all over the walls and everyone here looking after each other in terms of supporting small business, I thought it was great. As a team we created the concept and I passed that on to the people who help me find investments”

Adam is backed by Toucan Ventures, who have provided him with both the finances and great contacts to establish this new concept restaurant.

“To have mentors that I have had through this process has been absolutely phenomenal.” Said Adam. “I’m probably the luckiest chef opening his own restaurant with a team behind me like that. Any mistake a restaurant has made Toucan and those involved know how to rectify it because they’ve seen it all before.”

One thing that stands out among the boxes, ladders and workmen at the site is the sign, The Frog, it is not what I was expecting from Adam.

Crab, Apple - Credit Tim Green
Crab, Apple - Credit Tim Green 

“The Frog might seem like a bit of an odd name,” he explained. “But my thought was we’ll call it The Frog because this really is a leap for us all and perhaps a first leap towards the opening of my fine dining signature restaurant, Restaurant Adam Handling.”

The artwork for the logo grabs your attention as much as the name, designed by Fat Punk Studio, Adam admits it’s the only thing he didn’t make changes to.

“The logo was perfect from the start, and anyone who knows me knows nothing is ever perfect! When he sent me the logo that was it, it was going to be The Frog and I was keeping that name.”

With his fingers in so many pies it would come as no surprise if Adam was burnt out in a few years but ever the joker his reply was: “A few years? A few months! After National Chef of the Year and S.Pellegrino is over that’s me I’m done! I’m going to sit on a beach!”

He couldn’t have timed the opening of The Frog better if he tried, although he admits he did speed it up to coincide with Great British Menu!

“I don’t think we’ll have a problem filling this restaurant and with GBM coming up, whenever I do a show like that I’m extremely fortunate that people want to come and try my food.”

With the S.Pellegrino final and the semi-final of National Chef of the Year (NCOTY) falling the day after each other, Adam is certainly keeping himself both busy and challenged. And knowing Adam for the past few years, I know winning NCOTY has always been one of his main goals.

The Frog exterior
The Frog E1

“My god, if I don’t win NCOTY this year I give up! I don’t know what more I can do” joked Adam. “People expect me to do well and I hate letting people down and myself and I really want to give it my all. This year I’m going more classical with my choice of dish.”

There are not enough hours in the day for Adam, however his clear determination to succeed leave me with no doubt there will be many Frogs ‘hopping’ across London and one happy chef (possibly the new NCOTY) opening his signature restaurant in the near future.

>>> Read more about Adam here

 

By Cara Pilkington

@canteencara

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th June 2016

Adam Handling on his new venture, The Frog, E1