Chef of the Week: Robbie Lorraine – Founder of Only Food & Courses in London

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
We launched at the beginning of December 2020.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking come from watching my nan prepare lunch for us when I was a kid. It was always a highlight of my day. I did my formal training at Westminster Kingsway College where I learnt the classics.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
It sounds cliched but no two days are genuinely the same. There is always a new challenge around the corner which gives you the freedom to be creative.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
I couldn’t live without the staples; salt, onion and garlic. If you’re asking what my favourite ingredient is, I’m loving crab and lobster at the moment.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My knives! I’ve invested in a great set over the years. I’ve got a knife for every occasion.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I’m seeing that people are looking for something original. Given how mad and uncertain the world is, they do want something that will give them a treat, comfort and make them smile. It’s kind of what we base our food on.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
A lack of attention to detail and trying too much at once. I think it’s important to maintain focus rather than try to be all things to all men.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Each season is brilliant for different reasons but, if I had to choose, I’d go with Autumn. At this point, we are going into those darker days and nights and you almost want a hug every time you eat. I love the root veg that is coming through. Things like celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, Autumn Squash really give me that sense of comfort.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Got to say I love my confit duck eclairs and truffle porridge. These have already proven popular and remind me of so many special family occasions. The duck eclairs remind of my regular afternoon teas with my mum, we’d always have a chocolate éclair so I thought I’d come up with something to pay homage to this!

How do you come up with new dishes?
All my dishes are inspired from my adolescence. Whether it’s time I spent with my nan and mum, or popular culture from that era, all of these give me inspiration to come up with fun dishes.

Who was your greatest influence?
My grandparents. They have always inspired me and supported me throughout my career.

Tell us three chefs you admire
The late great Gary Rhodes, Nuno Mendes and Paul Ainsworth.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Modernist Cuisine (actually five books) by Nathan Myhrvold. It brought a scientific approach to classic cookery and smashed a lot of myths around it.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Only Food and Courses, obvs!