How I Got Here: Tom Cenci

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with former Duck & Waffle restaurant executive chef Tom Cenci

Related tags: Chef, Restaurant, London

Former Duck & Waffle executive chef Tom Cenci joined forces with Adam White last year to relaunch well-known Bermondsey venue Village East as Loyal Tavern.

Why restaurants? 
It’s an industry I fell into when I was at school as I'd always been interested in cooking. I wrote to all the local hotels, and was fortunate enough to be able to do two weeks work experience at Cliveden House Hotel, which gave me a solid foundation in cooking.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
I wish I had been told to write down and keep every recipe you ever make. You may not use all of them, but someday you will look back and want one of them.

What do you do in your spare time?
Apart from trying to catch up on sleep and spending time with my family, I run a project that promotes mental health awareness by improving the well-being of hospitality professionals through the benefits of golf.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
It would have to be JKS restaurants, they have such well-established restaurants it’s incredible to see the pedigree they keep producing.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
Probably working at a desk in an office somewhere, bored out of my mind.

What motivates you?
The need to be better. I’m always trying to improve everything that I do; it’s a steep hill, but I’m still climbing.

Where was your last holiday?
I spent a week on a farm in Devon. It was amazing to be surrounded by nature and wake up with farm animals roaming freely. It makes such a difference from city life in London.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
It’s too hard to pick out just one. The chefs I’ve worked with, you never stop learning from them no matter the age or skill level they are at, everyone can teach you something. 

What keeps you up at night? 
The same thing that motivates me; the desire to be better.

Worst business decision?
I took a sous chef role at a restaurant in South Kensington years ago. The head chef would disappear for days on end. The kitchen was a mess. I ended up walking out after two weeks. 

Best business decision? 
Apart from my current role, of course, it would be working at Duck & Waffle. It truly was a unique experience.

What are you reading at the moment?
‘Fast Food and Junk Food, An Encyclopedia of What We Love to Eat’ by Andrew Smith; it’s a fascinating book that tells the history behind iconic brands and foods.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business? 
So many people in the industry hop from job to job and follow the money without any longevity. I’d say take your time, learn the trade, and grow when they are ready.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
There are too many things to list here, but I would say the main one would be how to respect each other and look after the staff.

Related topics: People

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