Chef of the Week: Tom Cenci, Executive Chef at Duck & Waffle, London
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
5 ½ years.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I’ve always had a passion for cooking from an early age and had the opportunity to work at Cliveden Hotel through school work experience. This led to them offering me an apprenticeship and I’ve never looked back.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Every day is different – it brings it challenges but it never gets boring. I could never work in an office sat behind a desk.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Tomato, coriander and chilli.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Apart from a knife, of course, it would have to be a Microplane.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Tacos are big right now. So many places are doing them but only a few have mastered them.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Seasoning – so many chefs don’t taste the food they are actually cooking.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Has to be autumn/winter. I love the all the hearty food that comes with it. Nothing says winter warmer better than a stew and bottle of red wine.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
That’s hard to say but I like it when the whole team gets involved, it’s nice to work together and come up with something truly original. For example, our foie gras crème brûlée started as a very complicated dish but has evolved over the years following input from numerous chefs and is now one of our most popular dishes.
How do you come up with new dishes?
A lot of the time it’s playing on ideas and trying to use your imagination. It doesn’t always turn out the way you want it but a lot of trial and error and hard work and you can get there in the end.
Who was your greatest influence?
The chefs I’ve worked with. You never stop learning from them no matter the age or skill level they are at, everyone can teach you something.
Tell us three chefs you admire
I couldn’t say just three, there are so many chefs out there that sacrifice a lot to better the industry and deserve a lot of credit such as Pierre Koffmann, who is a master of his trade. But it’s not just chefs – people like Fred Sirieix or Anna Sulan Masing also doing their bit for the front of house, too.
What is your favourite cookbook?
I just bought the new book from Claire Thomson, The Art of the Larder. It’s a great book that utilises food that you already have at home.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
It’s too hard to say as there are so many but Tim Siadatan from Padella or Calum Franklin from Holborn Dining Rooms are both rocking it.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Breddos Tacos have been around for a while but now have a permanent site. It’s pure food indulgence at its best.
Photograph by www.fayditphotography.com