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July_Aug UK Chef

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TALK TO THE CHEF: Tom

TALK TO THE CHEF: Tom Kerridge Words: Josh Sims 10

A restaurant should be - not a temple to gastronomy but with food part of the overall whole that includes the tableware, ‘the service, the room. Tom Kerridge Wander into Kerridge’s Bar & Grill at the Corinthia Hotel and one might consider having taken a wrong turn down Mayfair’s Cork Street. On the walls is an eclectic mix of photography and painting, montages and mixed media, most of it from up-andcoming British artists the likes of Chris Moon, Matt Roe and Robi Walters. More strikingly, right in the middle of the restaurant, where a waiters’ station or some floral display might typically be found, is an impressive sculpture by the artist Beth Cullen. It’s not quite the size of her 20-foot marble piece outside Dubai’s Opera House, but it’s a statement nonetheless. Indeed, having taken said wrong turn, you’re likely to find yourself not just alongside diners, but alongside people who aren’t eating at all. They’re here for the art. “Anything that gets people through the doors is a bonus, whether they end up eating or drinking anything or not,” says Tom Kerridge, the chef best known for getting Michelin to give two stars to pub dining, with his Hand and Flowers inn in Marlow. “But what we’ve done here is, in effect, to create a small gallery within the restaurant. And we’re more than happy for people to come in and just look at the art for its own sake.” Art displays in restaurants is not a new idea, of course. London establishments the likes of Langham’s in the 1980s or L’Escargot in the 1990s won reputations as much for the art on the walls as the food on the plates. Before then Warhol designed bottle labels for the likes of Dom Perignon and Absolut, Dali - fine dining it ain’t - for Chupa Chups. Food in the UK started to gain credibility much the same time as the Young British Artists turned global attention on the nation’s artistic output. Some might even argue that there’s something of a crossover between artistic and culinary pursuits - “though I’ve always thought of cheffing as being more a trade than an art,” says the ever downto-earth Kerridge. 11