Flash-grilled: Henry Freestone

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Henry Freestone head chef Crispin Spitalfields

Related tags: Chefs, London

Henry Freestone is the head chef at Crispin, a Spitalfields restaurant that serves an eclectic small plates menu alongside speciality coffee and low-intervention wines.

What was your first job?
I was a kitchen porter at The Drapers company.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
Chocolate Leibniz biscuits.

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
Kiln in Soho was pretty special.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
I admire my dad a lot, he trained as a chef at Claridge's in the 1980s to get onto The Savoy management course. Without him I would of never got a foot through the door at such a young age.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I’m in a band also so I’d probably just take that a bit more seriously, we tour a lot already but it’s not quite a profession.

What is your biggest regret?
I don’t really have regrets, obviously there’s things I’d do slightly different, but I think regret just means you're hanging onto something that can’t be changed.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Lateness, obviously once in a while it can’t be helped but I think punctuality is a big part of the job especially at Crispin, time is my biggest enemy and there’s never enough of it. 

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
“These pork scratchings taste too porky”.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought?
I had this amazing carrot dish at a tiny restaurant in tooting market which blew me away. Generally when you have a dish of a ingredient in a few ways I think it’s a bit naff but this was unbelievable.

Describe your cooking style in three words
Simple, seasonal and straightforward.

Most overrated food?
Sushi or porridge.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Phones. I think they ruin dinners as people are more concerned with what people see them doing on Instagram rather than enjoying it and savouring the memory. I understand it’s integral to the industry now but I wish I didn’t see couples on dates both on their phones during dinner rather than conversing and enjoying their food.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
Luckily people have been kind to me but there’s been a few online reviews which break my heart. 

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
Gordon Ramsay, he’s one of the few chefs who’s transitioned from the highest level of cooking to TV and media, which I have a lot of respect for. Also, he wouldn’t hold back on critique.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Only get into it if you really love cooking and food. The first few years are tough so unless there’s passion there, it’s not worth it.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
A knife. My current kitchen has 2 induction hobs and an oven, you don’t need all the equipment to make good food.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
I’m off Sunday’s and Monday’s, so a roast on Sunday’s and then something simple - changing the menu every week at Crispin means that on my off days I just want something easy that involves minimal work.

What’s your earliest food memory?
My mum worked at Fortnum & Mason when I was growing up so I remember being taken to the food hall up their and thinking I was in heaven. Little did I realise it wasn’t where many people do their weekly shop. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
There’s no such thing as a silly question.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I was involved in a hit and run in a cab a couple of years ago that could have been much worse.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
Generally I like to keep it chilled - with the Crispin evening menu running Tuesday to Saturday I’m not at home a lot in the evenings - so go for a couple quiet pints at my local.

Tipple of choice
I really enjoy Lambic beers like Cantillon and Gueze Boon but they’re not that readily available sadly. Whenever I see them, I get them.

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