StyleNest chats comfort food, Claridges and kids with the lovely Adam Byatt.
Having been born into a family of foodies and cooks, it was inevitable that Adam Byatt followed the culinary path. Chef, restaurateur, writer and father, Adam Byatt has cooking in his blood, redeveloping British classics from seasonal produce.
Cooking is in your blood. Your grandfather was a cook and your mother was also a chef. From what age did you know that you also wanted to cook?
Probably between 11 and 14. I took cookery as one of my options and loved it and was good at it. I had cooked at home from a young age and was confident.
You have had experience at Claridge’s before working at The Berkeley among many other prestigious establishments. How did you handle the pressures of the kitchens at such a young age?
At that stage there is no real pressure, you just require stamina and focus to turn up day after day and work hard in a hot, stressful environment. You either have it or you don’t. Pressure comes with having your name on the door or your family reliant upon your ability to fill a dining room.
You opened your first restaurant called Thyme in Clapham in 2001. After closing Thyme, you have since opened two more restaurants, Trinity and your latest baby, Bistro Union. Can you tell our readers a bit about what to expect on the menu?
Bistro Union is for everyday dining, it’s for families, it’s open all day and the food is my take on the British food of my childhood, full of nostalgia and comfort. The bistro side of things is the tone and culture of the place that sings of non-committal dining.
What helps to inspire you to create new dishes? Is it places? People?
Mainly a back-catalogue of dishes, my travels, my staff and new seasonal ingredients. But ultimately it’s what the customer wants first, seasonality, profitability and ensuring that the dish fits the restaurant.
StyleNest recently interviewed the lovely Tom Sellers who told us how much he admired you. What do you think of his latest venture Restaurant Story?
Tom is a really talented guy, he worked with me for a few years and has an incredible CV. We were looking to back Tom in a venture and this site came along. Although grander than we had imagined, Story has all of the set up and structure required to allow Tom to reach the very top of the industry, which I have no doubt he will. Story is unique in London, it is current, clever and delivers. It’s a very now and food-focused dining experience. London is the better for it.
You have a young son, what are your tips on getting kids introduced in cooking and eating healthy food at an early age?
Be confident to allow them to eat wild and wonderful foods that may seem too ‘adult’. If you shy away from vegetables they will, too. Give them ownership over the whole eating thing, allow them to choose and take from a platter in the middle of the table.
Bistro Union is about British seasonal produce. What advice would you give parents to help prepare time efficient, nutritious and tasty meals for the family?
Eat at Bistro Union with the kids. £8 for 3 courses! Prepare food in advance and get them involved in the process, they will be far more likely to eat it.
Which are some of your favourite restaurant haunts from around the UK?
I eat in many for all different reasons – I like Roka in Canary Wharf on Sundays, Bone Daddies for casual midweek, Spuntino late on Saturday night, Quo Vadis and The Wolseley for a grownup dinner, and I also love Claridge’s for its afternoon tea.
What advice would you give our readers who want to set up their own business?
Set up a business in a field you are an expert in. Too many people feel that because they use restaurants that can somehow own one. Restaurant ownership is a vocation and a lifestyle choice that the rest of your family and friends will have to play second fiddle too.
You also make regular appearances on BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen, Market Kitchen and Celebrity Masterchef as well as having a family and running a restaurant. When you are not busy working and cooking away, what do you like doing to sit back and relax?
I go fishing. I travel every year with two friends to Africa to fish. I make sure that I get time away; I would go mad otherwise and would never be able to grow my business or make plans.
Can you give StyleNest any exciting inside news on any current or future projects you might be working on?
I will be opening a restaurant inside a hotel this year…Watch this space. You may see another Bistro Union and I may be involved in a well-known TV cookery show later in the year. Not a lot I can talk about in detail but exciting all the same.
What’s your ultimate comfort food?
Roast chicken, chips, coleslaw and salad.
Timesaving appliances are being launched every day with cupcake makers and chocolate printers. Do you welcome modern tools of cooking in your kitchen or do you miss the former more traditional approach?
I am very old school and enjoy the processes of cookery. We are in danger of losing this and what a shame that would be.
As a chef you spend hours in the kitchen, do you still get pleasure cooking at home or would you prefer to go out to dinner?
I cook at home from time to time but love eating out in restaurants. It’s also difficult to cook well at home without my team or the gadgetry that allows the magic to happen.
What inspirational chefs do you admire?
Anyone running a successful business as a chef should be admired. Simon Rogan, Phil Howard, John Williams, Tom Kerridge – I could go on. We are lucky to have such a thriving food culture in the UK now.
Do you have a motto in life?
Be the best you can possibly be.
For more information on Adam, visit www.adambyatt.co.uk