Thomas will take on the role of chef-patron at Luke’s Dining Room at Fuller’s hotel Sanctum on the Green in Cookham Dean, near Marlow, this March, managing a team of between 10 and 15 staff.
The chef, who has spent the last five years doing work experience and stages at a host of restaurants, hotels and pubs and became interested in food at the age of three, told BigHospitality that despite his age, the opportunity was too good to pass up when Fuller approached him to run the restaurant at the hotel where John Burton Race was formerly a consultant.
“Being 18 and being offered the opportunity to run your own restaurant is amazing. Mark and the management here were keen that I get that chef patron role and I know with that position I’ll have to not only focus on the food, but also on the business, but when I found out team of people I’d have working with me, I couldn’t turn it down,” he said.
“It’s amazing, not just to be given the opportunity to open my own business at 18, but also to be able to work with people like Mark Fuller who has a great background and experience of the industry.”
While many chefs dream of opening their own restaurants, some are put off by the financial and operational side of running a business.
However, Thomas, who has completed stages at The Fat Duck, Rhodes in Dubai and Alinea in Chicago, among others, said he felt ready having also worked with Individual Restaurant Company’s commercial director Iain Donald.
“Working so closely with Iain during my placement at the Individual Restaurant Company, which has 32 restaurants, was really key to gain an understanding of a restaurant business works,” he said.
Thomas’s 45-cover restaurant will be open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner and for lunch on Sunday and will serve breakfast daily when it opens its doors in March.
The restaurant will feature a modern European menu, but with a strong British focus. Dishes on the 18-item menu include cauliflower velouté with pork scratchings and golden raisins, pork chop with bonbons, creamed Savoy cabbage and cracked mustard and rice pudding with coconut and caramelised banana.
Thomas said the idea was to provide robust dishes using seasonal ingredients with many dishes based on what he had as a child and which would champion British ingredients.
He said: “I first got interested in food when I was three or four years old. Every day at home we’d have hearty British food and then at secondary school when we started talking about careers the only thing I wanted to do was be a chef.
“I’ve been very lucky having worked in so many professional kitchens where I’ve gained so many, but British is very much what I’m about here. I’m committed to the seasons and I’ve been very careful about the wines we’ve chosen – everything on the menu and the wine list is there for a reason.”