Exclusive: Tom Shepherd on his first solo venture

Cara Houchen

Tom Shepherd officially announced yesterday (December 22) that he has stepped down from his head chef role at Michelin-starred Adam’s to open his first restaurant.

He spoke exclusively to The Staff Canteen editor, Cara Houchen, about his plans for his solo venture, his biggest fear when it comes to going it alone and what customers can expect on the menu at the new Lichfield based restaurant.

“The time is right for me without a doubt to go my own way,” explained Tom. “It’s not a decision you come to quickly or lightly to be honest. A goal of mine since I became a chef was to open my own restaurant, that was always my ambition but when that happens, you can never really put a time or date on that.”

Next year, he will be a chef owner, the restaurant will be located in the same building as his dad’s jewellery shop - guests will find it on the top floor and since ‘quietly’ exploring the avenue of the space being used as a restaurant, Tom says ‘things have moved very quickly’.

He said: “The dream became a reality and it just feels right.”

Tom previously worked at The Latymer with Michael Wignall and as development chef at Restaurant Sat Bains. He has been with Adam Stokes at Adam’s for two and a half years, retaining its star and helping to evolve an already successful business. He wanted to be respectful about leaving and said: “I was open and honest with Adam from the very beginning.

“When I came to Adam’s it was like a homecoming for me. I’d been around the country and coming back here allowed me to be around my friends and family, buy a house and start a family.

“I’ve always been focused on the job, I wanted to help evolve the food and put Adam’s on a bigger map.”

Although he is yet to reveal the name of his restaurant Tom has a very clear vision of what style of food he will be offering. He is designing a relaxed, 32 cover restaurant with a glass fronted kitchen that is open at both ends - he wants people ‘to feel part of the experience as they walk in.’

“The food will be led by customer,” he said. “I do have an idea of what I want to open it with but I’m very open to that changing or adapting. The location where I am opening, there isn’t anything like this there and I’ve got a good feeling that the people of Lichfield will welcome this type of restaurant.

Adam Stokes and Tom Shepherd

“They are going to get food that I want them to be impressed by. It will be a really refined version of nostalgic cooking that they can relate to. Hopefully the food will blow their minds in terms of flavour!”

He added: “I want it to be a restaurant they want to come back.”

Opening a restaurant from scratch is a terrifying prospect as well as an exciting one and Tom says he thinks about a different issue every night.

He said: “At the moment we don’t know if there will be enough power to run the restaurant upstairs. So tonight, I’m going to have a sleepless night thinking about electric issues!

“The restaurant is just a shell – give me a bag of ingredients and I’ll create something you never thought was there but from a design point of view all I can see is an open workshop and I’m thinking, ‘how the f**k is that going to become a restaurant?’.”

He added: “I think my biggest fear is when it’s open and getting enough people in to cover all the bills.”

As with any chef, accolades are always in the back of Tom’s mind, he said: “You always want things for yourself, of course you do but I’m not going to open this restaurant and cook for any of the accolades, I’m only cooking for customers. My focus is the business and if along that journey an incredible thing happens and we get a Michelin star, that’s amazing. I’ve worked in eight Michelin-starred restaurants and I obviously worked in them to become them, but my focus is completely different now.”

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Cara Houchen

Cara Houchen

Editor 23rd December 2019

Exclusive: Tom Shepherd on his first solo venture