Tom Kitchin, Chef/Patron, The Kitchin, Edinburgh

The Staff Canteen

Tom Kitchin is the chef patron of The Kitchin, a restaurant in Edinburgh.

Tom runs the restaurant with his wife Michaela. The restaurant opened in 2006 and won a Michelin star within just six months. Tom was only 29 at the time, making him the youngest Michelin star winner in Scotland. Tom studied catering at Perth College, before moving on to an apprenticeship at the prestigious Gleneagles Hotel. Since then he has worked at some of the most renowned restaurants with the world’s greatest chefs, including Pierre Koffman at the three star La Tante Claire restaurant in London, the three star Guy Savoy restaurant in Paris and Alain Ducasse at the three star Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo. What he learnt with these French chefs is reflected on his food, which is modern British but influenced by French techniques. His philosophy From Nature to Plate means that he aims to use the freshest Scottish produce, cooked the same day it is delivered, and that his menus are seasonal. He also opened a sister restaurant, Castle Terrace, in 2010 with his friend Dominic Jack as chef patron. He launched his own book in 2009, From Nature to Plate and represented Scotland on the TV series Great British Menu in both 2008 and 2009.

Tell us about your operation number of covers, number of services.  How long have you been here? What are your opening hours? What are your goals for the business?

I opened the restaurant in June 2006 with my wife Michaela with the aim of bringing a new concept to Edinburgh's dining scene.  Our ideas were simple - we wanted to provide high standard food, made with locally sourced produce in stylish but welcoming surroundings, with customer service to match. The restaurant caters for up to 50 covers for two services a day - lunch and dinner.  We are open five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday.  Since opening we have built up a loyal customer base and a great reputation and as a result we are lucky enough to be full for almost every service and fully booked at weekends months in advance. I am a firm believer in not standing still - we didn't get to where we are today without hard work and we will continue to push ourselves to constantly better the dining experience for our guests.  Ultimately we want to have a full restaurant all day, every day and most importantly happy diners who keep on coming back for more.

Who is your main clientele at The Kitchin?

Our clientele varies widely from friends and family who are celebrating a special occasion to business lunches to tourists visiting the city who have heard of the restaurant by word of mouth.  We do have a very loyal customer base and often see the same faces returning to the restaurant regularly.  Without a doubt they are all passionate foodies who appreciate the quality and freshness of ingredients available on our menu day in and day out and The Kitchin is becoming known as a destination restaurant.

How many people are there in the team front and back of house?

We now have 28 staff full-time employed in front and back of house, which is a few more than the 6 we had when we opened 5 years ago. My wife Michaela is very involved in the business and has worked hard to build a great, hard working team where each member of staff play a hugely important role in the success of the restaurant. I am lucky to have some truly great people with me, like my Food & Beverage Director Philippe and Maitre d' Sylvain as well as David, my sous chef and my kitchen team who all work very hard long days. How would you describe the food you serve? If I were to describe the food in a few words I would say simple, honest, quality dishes executed to perfection and made with the finest, freshest, Scottish seasonal ingredients and produce. From Nature to Plate is our philosophy at the restaurant and we genuinely live and breathe the ethos - all of our menus are seasonal and we rely on the best suppliers in Scotland to bring us the highest quality, freshest, flavorsome produce there is around.  I've worked in some of the world's greatest restaurants, but have always championed Scottish produce to be the finest around.  We pride ourselves on the fact that all of the produce arrives at the restaurant daily straight off the land or shores of Scotland. 

What dish on your current menu best describes your cooking style?

In August I will be introducing Grouse to the menu when the season starts on 12th August.  Grouse is personally one of my favourite dishes to cook and to eat and the glorious twelfth is without a doubt one of the most exciting dates on the food calendar.  As soon as I finish lunch service on 12th August, I head to the Scottish Borders to meet my gamekeeper, Ronnie Grigor and collect the first grouse of the season.  We then bring the grouse back to the restaurant, prepare and cook the bird then serve it fresh that very night.  At The Kitchin, we pride ourselves on serving the freshest, seasonal food possible and being one of the first restaurants in the country to serve grouse on our menus that very day is, for me, as fresh and seasonal as it gets.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date and why?

Pierre Koffmann, my mentor and old chef. I trained in Pierre Koffmann's 3-star Michelin restaurant La Tante Claire and he inspired me like no one else.  What I especially admire about Koffmann is the way he cooks from the heart.  He has the greatest appreciation of food and has a remarkable understanding of flavours.  I also greatly respect Alain Ducasse, who I worked for at Louis XV in Monaco. A great inspiration. How many menus do you run at The Kitchin? At The Kitchin we offer a three course lunch menu and an a' la carte dinner menu, a Celebration of the Season Menu and our Land and Sea Surprise Tasting Menu.  These menus all evolve constantly with the seasons, always presenting ingredients and produce when they are at their absolute best.  Our dinner and lunch menus are also available with a matching wine package.  Our Head Sommelier Murray Neil-McLachlan, has developed a wine list which mirrors the restaurant's food perfectly.  In the same way the food menus do, the wine list changes with the seasons and is expertly matched to dishes to bring out the outstanding natural flavour marriages in my menu.

What is the best selling dish on the menu?

One of the most popular dishes on the menu is the Boned and Rolled Pig's Head.  It has become my signature dish and I am particularly proud of it.  I am fanatical about nose to tail cooking - making the most of every part of produce and minimising food waste and this is a perfect example of how different cuts of meat, when you are adventurous enough to try them, can be the most tasty and flavoursome.

What can we expect from Tom Kitchin, over the next two years, new projects, another book, more TV?

This summer I will be re-launching my book From Nature to Plate in paperback - the sales in the last year have been phenomenal so I hope people continue to enjoy and take inspiration from it.  I have also just signed a new book deal which I am incredibly excited about and we are hoping to publish the new book in autumn next year. We're constantly moving at The Kitchin, challenging ourselves and making business improvements.  Only last year we opened sister restaurant Castle Terrace together with Chef Patron Dominic Jack and in the last year the restaurant has won three Newcomer of the Year titles and been recognised in the Michelin Guide as a Rising Michelin Star.  I am also looking forward to doing some more television and continue to promote Scottish produce and food as much as I can, especially to the younger generation. I can't wait to see what the future will hold. 

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th July 2011

Tom Kitchin, Chef/Patron, The Kitchin, Edinburgh