Tom Kerridge, The Hand and Flowers and The Coach, Marlow

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th April 2017

IN ASSOCIATION WITH


It’s been 12 years since Tom Kerridge opened The Hand and Flowers in Marlow and in that time he’s gained two stars in the Michelin Guide UK, opened The Coach and lost 12 stone!

He may be half the man he was, literally, but the name Tom Kerridge has continued to grow and become a global brand thanks to his ‘celebrity chef’ status. And his next venture is his first restaurant in London opening in 2017.

Alain ducasse and Tom Kerridge
Tom Kerridge

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However, fame is not something which comes naturally to Tom, ‘I still can’t get my head round why people want a selfie with a fat, bald bloke’ he says genuinely puzzled. We are sat in his two-star pub, on a rainy Monday morning and he doesn’t miss a beat as he stops the interview to say hello to his star struck guests who walk past us heading for breakfast, shyly acknowledging his ‘good morning’ greeting.

“I find the fame thing really uncomfortable,” says Tom. “It was never something I set out to be or ever chased but being in this position helps the business grow and the business is the most important thing.”

He may still be baffled by his customers enthusiasm to get a signature in a book or a selfie for Instagram but as a regular on shows such as Saturday Kitchen he has probably been in most households around the UK via the medium of television.

“One thing I found interesting about TV and media is that as a bloke who was approaching 40 years old, all of a sudden there was a completely new industry I could be a part of. But I never watch it! I can’t bear watching myself it’s just the worst and I find it bizarre that anyone wants to watch something I’ve done – but it’s cool that they do.”

Tom is a busy man – celebrity chef, restaurateur, author plus he has a kitchenware range and not forgetting he’s dad to 13 month old Acey! It’s a hell of a juggling act and over the years his role has become somewhat removed from the kitchen and he now concentrates on developing the business.

“The second star put us on a world stage,” he said. “People are interested in how a British pub which serves real ales, with tables which are close together with no table clothes and no sommelier, conveys into a two Michelin star realm.

“When we first got the second star people were comparing us to very established two star restaurants; Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir, Le Gavroche, The Ledbury – and we are nothing like those restaurants we are very, very different. It was a battle against the conventional two stars and it was a very heavy crown to bear.”

Lamb Shank Swede Hotpot from Tom Kerridge's Dopamine Diet book

Lamb Shank Swede

Hotpot from

Tom Kerridge's

Dopamine Diet book

Now more comfortable being in the spotlight it’s fair to say The Hand and Flowers broke the mould, they knocked down the pretentious barriers and achieved culinary status by believing in the food they wanted to cook. 

Tom now has award winning pub The Coach, also in Marlow, and this year he will be opening for the first time in London at The Rib Room at the five-star Jumeirah Carlton Tower. But his latest project, and one which is very personal to him, is his book – Dopamine Diet which was number one in the book charts. It’s his fourth book, all of which have been hand written by Tom, he says he’s ‘rubbish at typing’ but also believes it makes it more personal to him.

He explained: “The diet book has been a huge personal journey and it has nothing to do with two Michelin stars, The Hand and Flowers or The Coach. It doesn’t really have much to do with being a chef creating a cookbook and putting it out there, this is actually a personal journey of someone who has lost a lot of weight and understanding how to cook in order to do that.”

He added: “It’s a topic which effects lots of people’s lives.”

Tom’s success means he can’t be on the pass for every service anymore which is the place he ‘is happiest’ and he admits he’s not there as much as he would like to be.

“It’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he explained. “The kitchen runs on systems which have been put in place to keep consistency over the years – there is no freestyling in our kitchen and everything is structured, we use recipes and nothing changes. So it doesn’t matter if I’m here or not the same food goes out.

“I’d love to be running every service but the reality is I can’t. It’s a young man’s game and I don’t want to be 55 and cooking on the sauce.”

That said Tom still has an input in the menu, which incidentally ‘does not follow fashions, fads or trends’, but is heavily centred on produce and Tom’s want to surround himself with suppliers who ‘care about what they do as much as we care about cooking’.

The Hand and Flowers
The Hand and Flowers

“Ingredients take so much time to grow from rearing cattle to growing carrots,” he explained. “They take time and understanding – it’s a process that somebody has to love. Then it comes to us and we cook it and that last little bit is actually such a small percentage on the journey of that produce coming to the customer. We are the gatekeepers who make sure that what the customer has is amazing.”

He added: “We just try to get a little bit better every day. Omelette Arnold Bennett for example, it’s a classic dish, it’s four ingredients; eggs, smoked haddock, parmesan and a glaze on the top and has been on our menu since we opened 12 years ago – we’ve just got better at it.”

As a chef he’s achieved some of the industry’s most prestigious accolades, he successfully runs multiple ventures and as a celebrity chef he has cemented himself as a TV regular, so what is left for Tom to achieve?

“Who knows? I do know that in say five years’ time The Hand and Flowers will still be here and still be getting better. When my wife and I first opened we wanted it to be somewhere we would go to eat and we still follow that ethos. It doesn’t matter how many books I write and even if the TV dries up, this pub, and I get emotional about this building, will still be here.”

By Cara Houchen
@canteencara

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th April 2017

Tom Kerridge, The Hand and Flowers and The Coach, Marlow

IN ASSOCIATION WITH