‘That has stuck with me, that food brings people together’

The  Staff Canteen

Frances Atkins and Tony Singh on the changing hospitality industry and advice for new chefs

In this week's episode of Gilled by The Staff Canteen co-host Frances Atkins, chef-owner of Paradise Café, and her guest celebrity chef Tony Singh MBE, discussed a number of topics from returning to their roots and embracing heritage to tasting menus and the changes to the industry.

Food brings people together

Speaking on his heritage, Tony discussed how his Sikh faith and the family he grew up with inspired him to be a chef. He talked about how his family was very food focused and they were good cooks.

“One of the cornerstones of the Sikh faith is Langar which is a communal kitchen, which is served in any Gurdwara where Sikhs congregate. So, we always helped there and the ethos of it was that everything that was served was 100 percent vegetarian so everybody can partake, everyone's equal and it brings people together.

“That has stuck with me, that food brings people together. So, I was always going to be a chef.”

Advice for younger chefs

While talking about how he became a chef, Tony said: “It's been an amazing journey and I've met amazing people. I still try and get that across to students when I talk to them at colleges or schools. You don't have to be academic, if you can work hard then you can get places and travel the world.

“The interesting people you meet it's just a wonderful thing and if you don't like it, you can do something else but it's a life skill you've got. I think cooking is one of these things that I was so lucky to fall into and enjoy and it's just got me everything I've ever wanted, friends, travel. It's just been awesome.”

On the biggest lesson he has learnt during his career, he said: “You can learn from everybody and anybody. The resources now for younger chefs are amazing.”

How has the Industry Changed

Both Tony and Frances have been in professional kitchens for many years, they've watched the industry and those who work in it, evolve and adapt. 

Frances said: “Really the things that have changed are a) the internet and b) the availability of different foods and spices and styles because our country has come through this great almost culinary revolution certainly in my lifetime. Now there's no stopping us we're one of the world leaders as far as food is concerned.”

“Frances has hit the nail on the head," added Tony. "I think London is that epicentre of food innovation because we're not scared to try different things. We can have tradition in one hand and on the other use spices, different techniques from people that do come from that whole multicultural background that we've got in the UK. Which I still don't think anybody matches.

“We embrace things, and it shows in our confidence in using different spices and different things while still championing British produce.”

Frances believes these changes are not just industry driven, but by the consumers and restaurant guests. She said: “I think it comes from the confidence from our guests who come to our restaurants.

“They want to try things, so demand is there for new tastes and different foods as well as fresh foods and beautifully prepared foods and that's where as a chef we have to listen to our public. That's an important thing. It's people's desire for new and interesting things."

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th August 2022

‘That has stuck with me, that food brings people together’