Flash-grilled: Toby Burrowes

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled with Toby Burrowes former Elystan Street restaurant head chef

Related tags: Chef, Restaurant

Toby Burrowes was head chef at Phil Howard’s Michelin-starred Elystan Street restaurant in Chelsea. This week, however, he stepped down over a ‘professional difference of opinion’, and is now looking to potentially open somewhere under his own name.

What was your first job?
I was a dairy farm hand when I was 11.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
Maltesers for sure; must be eaten at a minimum of five at a time.

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
My first meal at The Square, when I was 21. It was life changing, and showed me what food could really be.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Easy! The absolute legend that is Philip Howard. He has done so much for the London food scene over the last 30 years, and he is still so relevant.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
An actor, or a Royal Marine.

What is your biggest regret?
None; life is awesome.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
“This soup is too hot.”

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Phil’s roast Scottish langoustine on a parmesan gnocchi and a truffle emulsion; it’s pure indulgence.

Describe your cooking style in three words
Seasonal, delicious, and naughty.

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
John Cleese; if he reads this, I’ll cook him dinner.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Find a chef you respect and work your arse off for them. I also think it’s so important to eat well and exercise; it keeps the mind sharp, and being physically fit really helps out in this demanding industry.

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

What do you cook at home on your days off?
A Spanish tortilla smothered in a garlicy aioli, or a really rich carbonara if I feel like indulging.

What’s your earliest food memory?
My family home on the farm back in Australia. It had an epic vegetable patch, as well as a fruit orchard, and I used to love picking things for dinner.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
If you’re not in a good mood, simply smile. It’s impossible not to feel happy when you’re smiling; go on, try it.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I used to race dirt bikes, and have been in some incredibly hairy situations. I’ve broken more bones and had more ‘this is it for me’ moments than I care to remember.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
London is such an incredible place, filled with so many great venues. I go to Chiltern Firehouse if I’m feeling classy; and Fold nightclub if I’m feeling naughty…

Tipple of choice?
It really depends: on the time of day or year; the weather; mood; location; and company So pretty much anything, expect sambuca… yes, there was an incident when I was younger.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Just assuming I’m on death row, I’d probably go for the world’s longest tasting menu and really milk it so I get more time.

Related topics: People, Restaurant, Profiles, Chef

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