Pearls of Wisdom: Tom Kerridge

By William Drew, 15-Jul-2011

Related topics: People, Restaurants, Pearls of Wisdom

Fresh from triumphing on Great British Menu, the chef-owner of Michelin-starred The Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Bucks, is back in his kitchen developing new dishes.

If you want to come here in shorts and flip-flops, thats cool with us. If you want to drink pints with your steak and chips, brilliant. Or if you want to spend 300 on a bottle of wine, even better.

I grew up on an estate in Gloucester and started working in country house hotels locally. From the word go I loved the buzz in kitchen, that sense of regimented chaos.

When we took on this site it was a pub doing 500 a week max. We started off keeping tables for drinkers, but when more people want to come and eat, youre not going to turn them down, are you?

The team is very young - apart from me they're all in the 20s, enthusiastic and hard working. My pastry chef is 33 but we count him as being 12 because he still rides a BMX...

My wife Beth's family are all self-made, whereas I'm from a background where you'd never imagine owning your own business. Once I'd retained the star at Adlards [in Norwich], I wondered what was next. Beth pointed out that it was pretty obvious.

John Bentham, who used to be head chef at Stephen Bull in St Martin's Lane, is an unsung hero. His understanding of simple, cheap ingredients and how to make them taste fantastic is just incredible.

The things people associate with Michelin stars - like stuffy French waiters in badly fitting suits is precisely the feeling I didnt want in my place.

Never say never, but I'm not interested in a second restaurant right now.

I'm not one for specials boards and daily changing dishes. We've been working on a new smoked mackerel dish for three or four months. I want it perfect before it goes on.

I'd love to establish The Hand & Flowers as the kind of place that's as well known in 10 or 15 years time as Le Manoir or L'Ortolan. But short-term, it's a case of making sure the larder section is set up.

I try to make sure all the guys in the team have fun. When youve got a happy team, that comes across to customers.

The process of opening your own restaurant is terrifying. On day one, we'd spent every single penny we had. I had to borrow 40 for the float in the till off my wife's brother. So we needed the business to work quickly.

Daniel Clifford, Simon Rogan, Sat Bains, Nathan Outlaw, Adam Simmonds up the road at Danesfield House. These guys are some of the best chefs in the country, maybe in Europe. And I'm lucky that they are great mates too.

I've got a young lad in from college he says they're actively told that water baths are de-skilling chefs. Somebody there simply doesn't understand what a water bath is about and how it can increase skill levels. And that can't be right.

Our chicken liver parfait is frozen, then its churned to order using a Pacojet, almost like ice cream.

Hushed temples of gastronomy don't do it for me. You want to be at the bar at Polpo or Terroirs, somewhere you don't have to pretend to be anyone you're not.