StyleNest take five minutes with the lovely Tom Sellers to talk food, food and more food. Having recently opened his first restaurant, Restaurant Story, new to the food scene Sellers has certainly made an impact on us all already.
Having worked with some of the best names in food from Tom Aikens and Thomas Keller, Tom Sellers seems to be taking lead from the famous Tom’s in food. Fuelled by his team, Tom aims to make dining an experience and with a menu of tasting dishes to choose from, you are certainly in for an experience at Restaurant Story.
We hear you are involved with the new site tothetops.com. Can you tell us a bit more about your decision to get involved and what it’s all about?
tothetops.com is an online shopping platform, but, unlike most sites, it has a team of ‘experts’ from various fields recommending products that we truly believe in. It was flattering to be offered to be a part of tothetops.com. I personally don’t get much time to shop, so something like this has the potential to be really handy to busy digital consumers. I have been keeping a mental list of my favourite cooking gear throughout my international career so it is great to be able to share it and allow others to benefit from my expertise. Soon my page will be filled with lots of product ideas and suggestions. There will be product from all over the world, which most people who haven’t worked in professional kitchens may not know about and are great to use at home.
Can you give StyleNest any exciting inside news on any current or future projects you might be working on?
Restaurant Story is my main focus at the moment, but I’m always open to being involved with other creative projects such as tothetops.com – it’s just a matter of having the time. We haven’t been open long, so it’s full-steam ahead in the kitchen. The dishes are changing regularly as new ingredients come into season. We only run tasting menus, so we want to keep the content fresh and varied to keep things exciting.
You have a very interesting story about how you got into the industry. Turning up at Tom Aikens door, can you tell our readers about how it all came about?
I’d left school early and started working in a local pub. Just washing dishes and helping out. I realised quickly that being in the kitchen was something that I could really love. After a short while I decided I was going to London – all the best restaurants at that time were in London so it was where you had to be to learn from the best. I turned up at Tom Aikens’ door and asked for a job. He put me to work in the kitchen for a day to see how I got on. I worked my ass off that day wanting to make the right impression and it worked. He offered me a job and I stayed for two years. In that time I tried to learn everything that was on offer. Tom Aikens was and still is on one of the greatest chefs to come from this country.
What was the inspiration behind Restaurant Story? From the name to the menu and location?
I always knew I wanted to call my own restaurant Restaurant Story. To me food and dining tells a story. Certain tastes invoke memories or a great meal out creates a story of its own to tell friends. I try to think about this with my dishes and use my memories of flavours and smells when putting a dish together.
We have a burnt onion dish on the menu at the moment, which makes me think of when I was a kid going to the fairground with my dad and eating hot dogs with burnt onions on. The location of Restaurant Story chose me in some ways. I’d been looking and looking for the right site when we came across Tooley Street. It was a derelict Victorian toilet block just sitting there in the middle of this intersection. It just felt right.
The area is cool, a mix of business and residential, and the Bermondsey crowd already have some good eateries to go to. We knocked down the toilet block and built Restaurant Story from scratch. There are still some stones from the original building in the restaurant though, we saved them and built the wall around the open kitchen with them. You can stand in the restaurant and look one way to see the Shard and then go out onto the terrace and see Tower Bridge, two of the most iconic structures in London – one new, one old.
What helps to inspire you to create new dishes? Is it places? People?
The team I work with inspires me. We are a family and work together in a tight space for 16 hours a day. I have my notebook in which I write and draw my ideas, then I try them out on the team and we work on ways of finessing them together.
Any top tips for mums who aren’t confident cooks? Any secrets how to get little ones to get excited about veggies?
Well, as I’m not a parent myself I wouldn’t presume to know anything about how to get kids to do things they don’t want to do. All I’d suggest is get them involved in the preparing and cooking of the food if you can. Get them excited and interested in what they are eating and keep it varied. The same goes for people who aren’t so confident, just get involved and try different things. What’s the worst that can happen? If it goes badly there is always tomorrow to try again.
What advice would you give parents to help prepare time efficient, nutritious and tasty meals for the family?
Plan your menu for the week. Use fresh ingredients and cook in bulk if you know you don’t have time later in the week. Portion out and freeze the food that you have cooked, that way you know what’s in it and it won’t be full of preservatives and mystery E numbers.
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?
Of course I get pleasure cooking at home. Food is the biggest thing in my life and cooking for friends and family gives me a lot of satisfaction. My parents are my biggest critics and my biggest supporters, I enjoy nothing more than cooking a big roast for my folks and then taking our time over eating it together. Cooking at home has a totally different feel to cooking at work.
What inspirational chefs do you admire?
I admire any chef who is running a restaurant at the moment and keeping in business. It’s a tough market to be in and people are always looking for something different. I admire the chefs I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. Tom Aikens gave me the skills and exposure to move into this career, Thomas Keller taught me the kind of leader I wanted to be and about treating the team as family. Adam Byatt has given me the business acumen. And Rene Redzepi encouraged the respect for ingredients.
Do you have a motto in life?