Flash-grilled: Ben Tish

By Georgia Bronte contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Weekender Interview: Ben Tish
With over 20 years of experience under his belt, culinary director of the Stafford London, Ben Tish oversees the food at the Game Bird and American Bar, as well as its private dining operations.

Formerly chef director for the Salt Yard group, Tish regularly appears on TV shows such as Saturday Kitchen, as well as writing for The Guardian; The Telegraph; The Times; Noble Rot; and our monthly print publication, Restaurant. 

What image do you currently have on your phone’s wallpaper?
A picture of my wife, Nykeeta, and my French bulldog, Piglet.

What was your first job?
Working in my dad’s amusement arcade in Skegness giving out cash change.

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
The best meal I’ve ever had was at Extebarri in the Basque country, Spain. The whole experience blew me away - the journey there, the setting, quality of ingredients and cooking style – where everything is grilled over wood, which back then it was a real eye-opening experience although nowadays it’s a common technique in most restaurants. 

Best meal this year?
A restaurant that has stood out amongst a lot of London hype and “emporer’s new clothe” is Cornerstone - seriously impressive flavour combinations, beautiful presentation and deceptively simple.

What’s the restaurant concept you wish you’d thought of?
Hawksmoor- not only is it the best quality steak restaurant in the UK, it is incredibly consistent, and the cocktails are knockout.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure? 
M&S breaded chicken goujons with mayo.

Where are you going on your next holiday?
Cornwall.

What industry figure do you most admire (and why)?
Alice Waters from Chez Panisse. Her food philosophy, style and approach are what we are all aspiring to do now, 25 years later. Sustainable, charitable, seasonal and generous, much more than just food and service.

If you weren’t in restaurants, what would you do?
Writing of some sort, I love it and write a lot in my spare time.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I've been run over three times. The last time was over 15 years ago. It was a proper knockout job and I was very lucky indeed.

Biggest regret?
None, as of yet.

Pet hate? 
Long-windedness.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
Do you work here? (I was there dressed in full whites)

Marmite: love it or hate it?
Hate it.

Describe your cooking style in three words:  
Seasonal, uncomplicated, and flavourful.

What country do you next want to visit?
Japan.

Most overrated food?
Caviar.

Restaurant czar for a day – what would you implement?
No Instagram would be allowed.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
I launched a restaurant a couple of years ago that was handicapped from the start with a grim, soulless location (don’t ask). A certain critic described it as like "walking into a restaurant graveyard"...there’s no coming back from that!

What made you want to become a chef?
Not knowing what else to do and wanting a quick move to London. It was an easy option and one that I regretted for the first couple of years.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
I love cooking at home. I cook a lot of Indian and north African inspired dishes, always a Sunday roast too!

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Probably a cliché now but so true: get your head down, work hard and stick with a good chef for a good while to learn everything properly. You won’t go far wrong.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My spice grinder.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
"Being polite doesn't cost anything."

What’s your earliest memory?
Dropping a 99p flake whippy ice-cream on Skegness beach and being incredibly distraught.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
It usually involves the Groucho or Shoreditch House.

Tipple of choice?
At the minute, a well made Vespa. (James Bond's tipple of choice, originally made of gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet)

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
I’d be in Sicily eating freshly caught red prawns (Gambaro Rosso) raw with sea salt, lemon and rosemary and a few grilled with Aioli.

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