Flash-grilled: Tom Clarke

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

L'Ortolan restaurant chef Tom Clarke interview

Related tags: Chef, Restaurant

Having honed his skills working with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, Tom Clarke became head chef at L'Ortolan in Reading back in 2015.

What was your first job? 
Washing dishes at a local restaurant in Essex, aged 13.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?  
I love a good burger and chips.

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had? 
Le Manoir.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Gordon Ramsay,  for everything he has achieved within the industry.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
No idea, this is all I’ve ever done or wanted to do.

What is your biggest regret?
I’m not sure if I have any as I try to learn from my mistakes.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
Have two – one is double dipping spoons, the other is oven cloths on shoulders. 

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
I’m vegetarian but I eat goose liver!

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?

Describe your cooking style in three words? 
Clean, tasty and fun.

Most overrated food? 

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
No shows.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
We get some dodgy TripAdvisor reviews!

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
I already do, I get to cook for my family.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Keep your head down, work hard and always ask questions. 

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
A spoon.

What do you cook at home on your days off? 
My two kids love paella, pizza and roast dinners.

What’s your earliest food memory? 
Eating freshly baked bread and apple pies from my grandparent’s bakery.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 
Cook for the guest not the accolades.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I stepped on a frozen pond but the ice cracked so I fell in and my mate had to pull me out.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
My spare time is normally spent  with my two young kids.

Tipple of choice?
A good gin and tonic.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Good quality rib eye steak with all the trimmings.

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