Flash-grilled: Aarik Persaud

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Heritage London restaurant chef Aarik Persaud

Related tags: Chefs

Canadian-born chef Aarik Persaud, who co-founded Hong Kong based restaurant group The Butcher’s Club, is head chef at modern Swiss-inspired restaurant Heritage in London’s Soho.

What was your first job?
When I was 17 I got a job as a dishwasher in an Italian restaurant for the summer. Technically I started as a food runner, but I guess I wasn’t very good at it so I was promptly yanked off the floor, put in a rubber apron and sent to the dish pit. I vowed at the end of that summer never to work in a restaurant again.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
I can never say no to fried chicken. Whether that’s from a restaurant, takeaway or corner shop, I’ll eat as much of it as I can get my hands on.

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
Char Siu Fan (BBQ Pork & Rice) from Joy Hing in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Danny Meyer. He takes a service-focused approach, and his restaurants are timeless and elegant without being pretentious. Also, he created Shake Shack, and I love Shake Shack.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
I was going to study broadcast journalism before deciding to attend culinary school; my mum works in TV and I thought that world seemed really dynamic and exciting.

What is your biggest regret?
See above…

Pet hate in the kitchen?
People talking over each other. Worse, people talking over me while on the pass.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
‘Is this the way to the bathroom?’ whilst standing in the kitchen.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
The Cronut, maybe? I’ve never had one, but they look cool and I think it could be considered the first real viral food trend. It’s also just a pretty ingenious mashup.

Describe your cooking style in three words
Always ingredients focused.

Most overrated food?
Sandwiches.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Tasting menus. Not so much the food, but having to listen to a server make a speech every two bites.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
In the first few days of opening Heritage, a top London critic visited. There was a power outage and we couldn’t cook parts of his dinner; never a good start!

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
My wife. She’s very fussy, doesn’t eat meat, much dairy or anything unhealthy so that’s all my best tricks out the door. She tends to hold back the comments when I make something she doesn’t like, but when I nail it, it feels pretty good.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Don’t be fooled into believing that things have to be difficult. Kitchens don’t have to be stressful. If you don’t like working somewhere, don’t stick it out for your CV. Carve your own path and don’t be afraid to try things you know nothing about. Run your own kitchen. Start your own business. Be your own boss. Be creative. Travel. Party. Have fun. The next few years are the best memories of this job you will ever have, enjoy them and don’t get too caught up.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
Turning knife

What do you cook at home on your days off?
Healthy meals; lots of whole grains, and fish from Billingsgate

What’s your earliest food memory?
Making a lasagne with my mum when I was six

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
‘It’s not what you put in the pan, it’s how you finish it.’

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I was dragged out pretty far by an undertow while swimming on an isolated beach once and had to get rescued. That was a scary one; it happened so quickly and before I knew it I was a kilometre out from shore.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
I’m a big fan of Jazz Cafe in Camden. It’s a great live music venue and you can sit and eat a nice dinner on the mezzanine whilst watching the live show, then head down after when the DJ comes on.
Tipple of choice?
Pint of Guinness, or a shot of Makers.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
My mum’s curry chicken and rice.

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