The Young Knives: 6 Of Britain's Best Young Chefs

Britain’s rising culinary stars discuss sleep deprivation, DIY surgery and what it really takes to make it big in the kitchen

Most Popular

This story come from Esquire Weekly, our special edition for iPad and iPhone. Out every Thursday, it’s full of new and exclusive content – and costs just 99p an issue or £4.99 for a three-month subscription

Luke Butcher (above)

Age: 28
Pastry Chef, Purnell's, Birmingham
Trained: The Hand and Flowers, Marlow

“It’s been tough at times. I once worked 16 days in a row – from 7am to midnight – because we were short-staffed. But when you get that low, it makes the bond tighter. That’s why your first family is everyone you work with in the kitchen. You spend more time with those guys than with anyone else, although some people just don’t get on. When it’s hot and cramped, that can mean that arguments boil over. One of the guys I’ve worked with once stabbed another chef in the bum with a paring knife – right in the cheek. Painful. You need chefs in the kitchen who are workhorses, who do the hours and bulldoze through. But a lot of them, bless ’em, have not got the finesse for working on pastry. When you’re creating a dessert you’re trying to make something beautiful. That’s what attracted me to it and has kept me going.”

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Signature Dish: Burnt English egg custard surprise, with strawberry amd black pepper honeycomb
“It’s crème brûlée served in hollowed-out egg shells, with a layered strawberry sponge. When you cut into it you see the layers in the cake and think ‘how the hell did they get that in there?’ It takes quite a bit of technical ability.”

Eat it at: Purnell’s, 55 Cornwall St, Birmingham, B3 2DH

Most Popular


Ellen Parr

Age: 28
Head chef, The Art Of Dining (Pop Up)
Trained: Moro, London

“I went to a very traditional cookery school where you had to wear a tall hat and write lines if you were late – I quit after one year of the three-year course. That traditional style of cooking has definitely become less popular. Now, to get a job, you just need to really like food. Or you can do a pop-up or a street food thing. There’s a lot of ways of getting a good reputation without going down the traditional path.

“Some people are definitely not suited to cheffing. Sometimes, I end up employing them because you just have to take whoever’s available… But I like to work with people who have a good sense of humour, who can think on their feet and are passionate about it. You go into work, put some music on – something like Kanda Bongo Man or a bit of reggae – you chat to people and you’re active. I don’t enjoy sitting down.”

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Signature Dish: The Yellow Course 
“Pan-fried crispy sea bass marinated in ginger and garlic, with lots of turmeric for colour. Served with saffron and garlic yoghurt, cumin chickpeas and a courgette and yellow tomato salad with ginger and garlic dressing. Everything on the plate is a different shade of yellow, the room has yellow lighting and there’s a matching paper tablecloth that gets ripped off to reveal the colour of the next course.”

Eat It At: The Art of Dining’s ‘Colour Palate’ pop-up, 71 Blandford St, Marylebone, London, W1U 8AB


Tom Sellers

Age: 27
Chef Patron, Restaurant Story, London
Trained: Under René Redzepi at Noma, Copenhagen; Thomas Keller at Per Se, New York; Tom Aikens at Tom Aikens Restaurant, London

“I don’t feel young! Working 18, 20 hours a day takes its toll. I’ve done it since I was 16, and I’m starting to feel it now at 27. I don’t think I’ll be doing it in my mid-thirties, put it that way. But I’m always going to be involved in restaurants. It’s the only profession, apart from maybe an artist, where there are no rules. You can do anything you want with your food and no one can say that’s right or wrong.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“There are a lot of opportunities in the industry because food is so fashionable. But now fuckin’ everybody wants to have an opinion and be vocal about it, Tweet their views and photos while they’re eating. You can’t control any of it. That brings a huge amount of pressure. It’s your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time.”

Signature Dish: Bread and dripping
“It’s influenced by my father and my upbringing, a very working class dish that you would have at home, dipping bread into juices from roasted meat. I made a candle out of beef fat – we light it at the table and you can dip your bread into the candle well. That’s our most sought-after dish.”

Most Popular

Eat it at: Restaurant Story, 199 Tooley St, London, SE1 2JX
 

James Hill

Age: 31
Chef Patron, Bijou Brasserie, Carlisle
Trained: The Connaught, London

“I was brought up in the industry when it was still hardcore. I started off at 14 or 15 on ‘pot wash’ – you did your time there, then made your way to the kitchen. I don’t think it did me any harm. Injuries do happen. I once sliced off the side of my hand on the blade of a mandolin and it just wouldn’t stop bleeding. One of the other chefs made me put it in bowl of brandy and salt, which was a bit of a killer, but it helped. And I’ve done that ever since. 

"I’ve been given a few bollockings in my time, too. I was getting absolutely grilled at the Connaught – a risotto had been sent back to the kitchen twice because I hadn’t seasoned it properly – and the diners at the chef’s table [inside the kitchen] started cheering. It was like scoring an own goal in front of the away fans.”

Signature Dish: Medallion of Lakeland beef, confit shallots, confit tomatoes, spinach, potato gallete and red wine jus
“It showcases Lakeland beef, which is the best in the country. Carlisle has never had a full-on Michelin-starred restaurant – that’s not what we are – but we want people to enjoy fine dining and we’re always trying to push quality, seasonal local produce.”

Eat it at: Bijou Brasserie, 34 Fisher St, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 8RH


Jonray and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias

Age: 30 and 28
Head Chefs, Casamia, Bristol
Trained: Their parents’ family restaurant – and YouTube

"YouTube helped massively. Before it existed, if chefs wanted to discover what was going on at an incredible restaurant they had to write a letter and do what’s called a ‘stage’. They knew full well they couldn’t afford to go and eat there. Basically, you work unpaid for a week and get battered around doing all the crap jobs, just to see what it’s like on the inside. Instead, we started to go through menus online and watch videos of kitchen tours. It would have been better to actually taste the food but we were skint."

"When we were younger we would look at the Michelin guide – this little red book with pages like the Bible, they’re so thin. In 2008 we got a star and we went mental, we couldn’t believe it. Michelin is a weird thing.You get people who hate it, but so many amazing chefs have been credited by it. It’s got real heritage."

Signature Dish: Blood orange with thyme
“Every season we do the same type of dessert, but based on a different fruit. There’s a layer of puree of the fruit, then we do a custard that’s aerated and infused with a herb or a spice. It’s finished with a granita and a ‘texture’ of the same fruit – maybe a crispy, dehydrated or freeze-dried version. We work with an amazing potter who makes bespoke containers in the shape of the fruit we’re using for that season. We love it and the customers do, too.”

Eat it at: Casa Mia, 38 High St, Bristol, BS9 3DZ

***
MORE FOOD:

Mark Hix Makes The Ultimate Comfort Food
10 Unusual Dishes Every Man Should Try Before He Dies
The Secret Guide To Lunch In Covent Garden
***