Flash-grilled: Naz Hassan

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled with Crispin restaurant Spitalfields head chef Naz Hassan

Related tags: Chef

Naz Hassan is head chef at Crispin, an all-day restaurant in London's Spitalfields area that serves an eclectic small plates menu of Italian-focused dishes, alongside speciality coffee and low-intervention wines.

What was your first restaurant industry job?
When I was 14 I started as kitchen porter at a restaurant in Milan called the Silver Star Saloon, where my Dad was the chef.

If you were not a chef, what job would you do?
Maybe a tattoo artist or a professional skateboarder… I wish.

What industry figure or chef do you most admire, and why?
There are so many, pretty much all of the head chefs I’ve worked for, as they made me who I am. If I have to choose one I’d say Sam Ashton Booth, his work ethic is so admirable. I’m also a big fanboy of Bertrand Grebaut.

What's your pet hate in the kitchen?
Not having enough spoons. For me, spoons are like a painter's paintbrushes - you just can’t have enough.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
A lady came to the pass after her meal and I thought she was going to complain, but instead she just asked me if I could floss, as in the dance. I can’t. It was confusing...

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence
A Bengali kid doing Italian food.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
Somebody once said I didn’t know how to cook fish because they liked it very well done, but it just wasn’t to her liking and that’s a different thing. Still, it was painful to hear as a chef!

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Never wish to be any other chef, and try to learn from everyone in the kitchen - from the KP to the chef. Don’t underestimate anyone because of their position, everyone’s knowledge is valuable.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
Thermomix for sure.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
My mum’s beef curry with plain rice and her cucumber salad.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
Peter Sanchez's Casa Mia in Bristol last year. Every single course was perfect. I still think about the seaweed macaron with carabineros tartare - wow!

Favourite fast food joint?
The Pleasant Lady in Spitalfields Market. The jiang bing is out of this world. They do great things there.

What’s the dish you wish you’d invented?
Big Mac - purely from a business point of view, obviously.

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
Great British Menu, 100%.

Most overrated food?
Black truffles; they’re nice if they’re good, but most of the time they taste like cardboard to me.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Rude people. It’s obvious, but so many times it’s forgotten that the people making and serving you food aren’t machines or robots.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
Antony Bourdain and Nina Simone. I think (hope) things could get messy.

What’s your earliest food memory?
When I started school in Italy and they served me pasta for the first time. Up until then I had only eaten my mum’s Bengali cooking so it was really confusing - I ended up only eating bananas for the whole first week because I just couldn’t get my head around what they were giving me! Obviously that’s not the case anymore.

Tipple of choice?
Hibiki whiskey, on the rocks.

What do you consider your signature dish?
I’m most proud of my chicken with sweetcorn tamarind puree, strawberry vinegar and radicchio three ways. But I really don’t believe in signature dishes - I think our guests are the ones to pick the dishes to be remembered.

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