THE ROTA ARCHIVE

TOMOS PARRY - THE CHEF

"I LIKE THE WAY PEOPLE COME TOGETHER OVER FOOD.  I JUST LOVE THAT YOU CAN GO TO ANY COUNTRY AND YOU WILL KNOW SOMEONE AT AT LEAST ONE RESTAURANT AND YOU WILL INSTANTLY FEEL COMFORTABLE."

Follow Tomos on Twitter @Tomos_PP and Instagram @tomos_pp 

1.    What was your first job in hospitality

It was in Wales in a small restaurant in Cardiff called Le Gallois. But then I moved to London straight after that and went to The Ledbury for a short while and then The River Café.

2.    What is your favourite type of cuisine to eat – preferably not the one your work in?

I guess it would be a simple one with good produce.  So maybe Italian in the way that it’s all produce with big flavours. I like Japanese but I am thinking about where I go and eat and I just think in London there aren’t that many good Japanese places so I tend to go towards simpler food.  My favourite restaurants are places like Lyle’s and The Clove Club. I also like Smoking Goat because it’s a simple and short menu.  But I suppose Italian would be the one I like more.

3.    Which dish do you most associate with childhood?

God I don’t know. I was going to say something similar to macaroni but a Welsh version. I could say Welsh Lobscouse, which is like a broth with loads of bones in it.   When all the Welsh workers were working in Liverpool they got all these scraps thrown to them and they had to make a stew out of leftovers.  It’s probably something I can remember because I haven’t had it since. Or fish and chips because I come from the seaside in North Wales and it’s still one of my favourite dishes.

4.    What’s the soundtrack to your first love?

Velvet Underground – I made a girl I had a crush on a tape of it when I was like 14.

5.    What do you crave after a long shift?

Fried chicken or chicken wings – something really really satisfying.

6.    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – what do you have? 

Well on a workday it’s most likely cereal, but my preferred breakfast when I am off at home is eggs with loads of chilli.

7.    What is your favourite word?

Probably a Welsh word because it’s my first language.  I quite like the word melys, it’s Welsh for sweet and a good band in North Wales.  Probably not very cool but it’s one of my favourite words.

8.    If you could go on a culinary extravaganza-eating holiday – where would you choose to do so?

Japan

9.    All at the same time or coursed out?

It really depends on what mood I’m in or what I’m eating.  Generally I like for things to come out as and when they’re ready, but if you go to a tasting and it’s meant to be really balanced I really enjoy the progression.  But generally I go to places where food just comes when it’s ready.

10.What is the one area of working in a restaurant you wish you knew more of?

I wish I knew more about baking. 

11.What is the best cure for a hangover?

There’s a couple.  Fernet Branca is what we’ve been using.  It’s been fueling the restaurant opening of Kitty Fishers.  A lot of the people we work with haven’t worked in restaurants before and they find it quite tough, so we use the Fernet to help them.  Heaps of tea basically though, English breakfast, like about 5 cups with milk. 

12.You’re allowed one shift drink – what is it?

My favourite drink is gin and tonic, but I have been introduced by Honey Spencer the Sherry and Tonic and that’s my favourite drink now.  It’s so refreshing. You know after a long shift its just great. Love it.

13.What is the one thing which guests do that drives you mad?

Not arriving on time for their reservations.  I hate it so much because everyone else suffers. Or loud guest’s, like really loud obnoxious ones.  I really really don't like them. 

14.Do you have any rituals during a shift?

I probably do.  The sous chef at Kitty Fishers Chris Leach, he’s one of my best mates since I was 14, we’ve been in bands together and everything so we’re quite music obsessed. We’ll always play a song before service and just blast it out.  So his favourite at the moment is Taylor Swift, Shake it Off. He knows everyone hates it but he just blasts it out.  I think people are starting to enjoy it. He has really good taste in music but for some reason it’s that right now.  There is always a song though.

15.What’s the last film you saw?

I watched Mulholland Drive, I don’t remember much of it I was just so exhausted.  I also so Whiplash which was great.  The mentoring in it was kind of 'chefy' in a way because the guy is absolutely on him and  you kind of see parallels to working in a kitchen.

16.Best thing that has ever happened to you in a restaurant?

You know what there have been loads of great things and great times, but one of the coolest things was when Ruth and Richard Rogers came down to see me from The River Café.  They came when I was working at Climpson’s Arch, and they are quite West London and don’t really venture out East.  To see them come out of their car and walk into Climpson’s was just amazing.  They can go anywhere.  I mean they are like A-listers in their world and for them to come all the way over that way was quite amazing.  I mean working at River Café changed everyting for me, the way they do things is just amazing. I was quite moved when they came.  

When I first started working at The River Cafe, like the first week I was there Oprah Winfrey came in and Ruth was like "You need to take this dessert to Oprah".  I took it over and put it down and Oprah said "What is this?" and I had only been there a week and I just had no idea. 

But yeah, having them make the effort to come to a very unassuming archway in London Fields was very touching.

17.What’s your tagline/motto?

I don’t usually go for the one-liners.

18.Photography while eating – yay or nay?

I think it’s fine. Well I do it, I wouldn’t remember my dishes otherwise, now I can look back on my phone and see all my dishes. It’s quicker then writing it down say if you were on the pass plating up, it’s really good reference.  For guests its slightly annoying, I went to Asador Etxebarri to eat last year and there was this group of people at this table with cameras and that was a bit weird.  But then it’s good PR.   Without the bloggers the food scene would not work.   So I guess it's fine as long as it doesn’t take over the dining room.

19.Rank the following in order of priority: wine, food, sex

Sex, food, wine.

20.What would be your last meal – drinks included?

I’ve thought about this quite a lot actually. The meal I had in Florence like a year ago was pretty close to it, but I love fish soup like a bouillabaisse or fish and chips.  But I think it would be tomato bread to start with, a good one, then a bouillabaisse, then a beef Florentine and I’d have beer and a bottle of champagne and a dessert wine.

21.What makes you happy?

Cooking at home.  Not necessarily cooking at home, I never cook at home.  Basically I was in Spain with my girlfriend and I went out and got all the blood oranges from the garden and I think eating tomato bread and having good coffee in the sun for like 2 hours is probably what makes me happy.   I think the more and more I work, the more you learn to value the smaller things.  I probably really like mornings.  Like I can go and have a nice meal but then I am always thinking about the food too much. Whereas in the morning I just have a really nice breakfast and there isn’t much to think about.

22.How do you relax?

I guess music and mornings, but also just drinking beer, it’s just easy.

23.What is the background on your phone?

My girlfriend on the beach in Tulum.

24.Favourite Instagram accounts to follow

@estelanyc

@nigellalawson

@thefatjewish

25.What is the best thing about working in hospitality?

It’s quite an honest profession. You know everyone is connected by one thing, it’s a community vibe and that’s what it creates.  You can go to your friends place and they come to yours.  I mean we are lucky now because 20 years ago you didn’t have many places to go and eat, also just that eating and drinking is your job. Everyday someone comes into Kitty Fishers that I know and they come into the kitchen and basically you’re just hosting a dinner party every night.  I like the way people come together over food, I just love that you can go to any country and you will know someone at at-least one restaurant and you will instantly feel comfortable.  What it does is it instantly gives you insight into the city you are in.  Like you go to Barcelona and you get taken to bars you would never even go to.  You get into the city 10x quicker, into the nitty gritty.  We don’t have to eat at all the shit places.

26.Which restaurant are you ashamed to NOT have eaten at?

There’s a few, well not ashamed but I wish I’ve eaten in like Ducasse, Royal Hospital Road and I haven’t eaten at The Ledbury.

27.Who is the person you most respect in the industry?

Well its not one person, there is my first head chef Grady, who to me is just a legend. He was classically trained in London in the 80s-90s, old school French kitchens, but then left to live in California teaching at the California Culinary Arts institute, so he was learning and experiencing different lifetsyle/ways of eating that I picked up from him. I also like Stephen Harris and Emma at The Sportsman because for the first five years nobody came and they just cooked.  Like here I am at Kitty Fishers and Giles Coren came in and Faye Maschler was in two times in the first week and you kind of feel spoiled like you don’t work hard enough to get that.  Really in the scheme of things why do I deserve to get Giles Coren coming in in the first week?  These guys were around for 5 years before anyone really took notice and I think it takes a lot to just say "it’s cool, I am just going to keep doing it".  They are just such lovely people.   Plus Brett from The Ledbury because he just kept his head down and hasn’t given in to the celebrity or done a cookbook and its still the best restaurant in London and relevant.

28.What is your go to party trick?

I don’t have any party tricks.

29.  Finish this sentence; I eat everything except…

Parsnips, I hate the sweetness of them and also sweet potatoes and cheese wiz.