Flash-grilled: James Knappett

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

James Knappett Kitchen Table London chef

Related tags: Chefs, Fine dining, Casual dining

James Knappett is the chef patron of the now two Michelin star Kitchen Table and gourmet hotdog and grower Champagne concept Bubbledogs. He runs both venues alongside his sommelier wife Sandia Chang.

What was your first job?
I was a waiter at a restaurant called Sergio’s. Two weeks later I started working in a kitchen. 

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?  

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
The best restaurant meal I’ve had was at Alinea in Chicago, about eight years ago. We had 34 courses. It was the first time I’d experienced really experimental cooking, there were molecular elements, desserts made on the table in front of you and fantastic ingredients. It was really eye-opening.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why? 
Thomas Keller is a huge inspiration to me because he does everything with so much finesse. Whether he’s working on a brasserie or a three Michelin star restaurant, he gives 100% attention to every aspect of his work. It’s so inspiring to watch how he works and he bring out the best in the people he works with.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
I would be a policeman, it was always my plan before working in kitchens. I wanted to be like Bruce Willis in Die Hard, and be in on all the secrets of the police force.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
When chefs don’t pick up their feet when they walk, the noise is so irritating! Not just in the kitchen, everyone should pick their feet up more, it helps you get you around quicker.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
One guest at Kitchen Table said he was allergic to breadcrumbs, so we adapted a dish to suit him. A few minutes later, he asked for some bread, saying he could eat bread but was only allergic to the breadcrumbs.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
I wish I’d invented hamburger and chips, then I would be as successful as Ronald McDonald.

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

Most overrated food?
Sharing plates – they are often overpriced and the portions aren’t big enough.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
I would ban young chefs who expect to be head chefs before they’ve properly learned their craft.

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
I would cook for my mum, because I owe her so much. She has been there for every step I’ve taken to get to where I am today.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My knives, I wouldn’t be able to cook without them.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
Roast chicken with all the trimmings – I could have a roast dinner five nights a week, it’s my favourite.

What’s your earliest food memory? 
When I was about five and my little sister was born, we went to visit her and my mum in hospital. My dad made a round of prawn cocktail sandwiches with frozen prawns, ketchup and salad cream mixed together, and we all sat there and ate them on the ward.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My dad told me that if you work hard, you will get results – good things come to those who wait.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
A proper, old school English pub, preferably in the countryside.

Tipple of choice?
At the moment I’m into Japanese whisky.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
I would have buffalo chicken wings as a canapé, then fish and chips to start. Main would be a roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings, then dessert would be a classic sherry trifle.

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