Last Orders with Tom Kerridge

Last Orders with Tom Kerridge

Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge talks spearheading the gastropub revolution and why he loves being a publican.

Q. What's your favourite tipple?

I might not be the best person to ask these days! When I was spending every hour under the sun in the kitchen, there was a real beer culture – just beer, plain and simple and lots of it. But I had to stop. When you own a pub it is very easy to be tempted into drinking once the food has stopped serving, and I was drinking too much, far too much. I would drink beer by the barrel. So for my health as much as anything else, I had to stop. I am much more of an espresso man these days.

Q. Your success with the Hand and Flowers in Marlow has elevated the reputation of pub grub. What’s your secret?

I think that is what British people want, in the main. I think that is what a pub should serve. People eat every single day and for most people it is down-to-earth grub. We cook food everybody knows. It’s not complicated, but people appreciate it.

Q. You’ve grown a business, a TV show, and book publishing deals out of the gastropub concept. How do you think pubs are changing?

There is something happening across the country; pubs are moving away from being places where it is all about drinking to places where it is more about eating. It is the continental way that people have said for years we are moving towards; well, I think we’re there now. The only difference is, we’re doing it better than the rest of the world.

Q. What's your favourite thing about being a landlord?

They [pubs] are bastions of local life and the community – they surpassed churches and community centres years ago. You know, people love that. And that’s my favourite part of being a publican – you know you’re doing something really special for your local community. We will always have that community spirit, because the people here have that and that is my favourite thing about being here. As our profile has grown bigger, we have people coming from all over, but we’ll never forget about those who live on the doorstep, because they are the heart of it all.

Q. When choosing ingredients, what are you looking for?

First and foremost it is quality; I look for the best. Just because it is local doesn’t mean it is good. The whole buzzword of ‘local’ doesn’t make sense – neither for sourcing produce at the right price, nor for giving my customers the very best experience I can. That’s not to say local produce doesn’t have its advantages – it usually does, certainly in terms of what happens to goods in transit. But local produce isn’t the be-all and end-all that people perhaps assume it to be.

Q. What advice would you give to other landlords?

You need people passionate about driving forward your business. They’re more than just staff; they’re stakeholders. To assume that you can employ staff and they’ll simply embrace your business, your morals and your ethos is foolish. It takes time, it takes mistakes, and you shouldn’t be afraid to make those errors. I spent years not getting it right, but I think I may have got it right now. But make no mistake, your staff are everything. As a businessman, when I see the whole operation going on without me driving it, that’s a great feeling.