08 February 2018, 03:19 AM
  • A worldwide restaurant empire hasn’t distanced the Michelin-starred chef from his British roots
The Interview: Jason Atherton

MAKING IT WORK

When I choose ingredients, I don’t worry too much about cost – although I have to be able to sell it to the customer at a reasonable price – I’m more concerned with whether it’s the very best that’s available. Can I make a fantastic meal out of it, and are my guests going to enjoy it? There’s no compromise, there are no ifs, buts or maybes, that’s just what I do. Whether I’m serving Michelin-starred food at Pollen Street Social or Japanese cuisine at Sosharu, it’s always about incredible food.

Even at Berners Tavern, where we sell a very reasonably-priced brunch menu which always packs the restaurant out, it’s not a case of cutting costs on ingredients in order to make more money, it’s about sourcing the very best eggs in the country. The best bacon. And the best joint of beef when we’re serving our roasts on a Sunday.

In other countries, the worlds of foodservice and retail are very much combined, but in the UK we’re only now starting to appreciate the value of bringing a restaurant chef and his passion about really great dishes into the product development process.

The same is true of produce. I’ve never been as close to my producers as I have been during the past five years. In fact, in my latest book, Pollen Street Social, the first section is taken up by my favourite suppliers telling their stories. I want people to read that book and enjoy the recipes, of course, but also to understand what went into producing the meat that’s on their plate, where their fish has come from.

It’s the farmers and fisherman who are getting up in the early hours to look after their livestock and get on their fishing boat. It’s they who are going out and line-catching the exact squid that I want. It’s their story, and I wanted to give them a chance to tell it.

LESSONS LEARNED
I still learn every day from other people who have worked within restaurants and kitchen; I’ve learned in particular that my way isn’t always the best way. It’s important to be humble and to listen to what people have to say, no matter how trivial you think it may be at first.

INSPIRATION
I’m inspired by my wife and two children every day – they inspire me to do a good job and to make them proud of me. My teams across the world work so hard, and my duty to them keeps me going too.


Read the full interview in the latest issue of Speciality Food, free to download here.

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