CHEF OF THE WEEK: TOM WESTERLAND – CROCKERS HENLEY IN HENLEY-ON-THAMES
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I’ve worked at Crockers for 4 months. I started 3 days before lockdown kicked in so we had to massively change opening plans to accommodate a takeaway. Previous to Crockers I worked at Lucknam Park for 7 years.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking started in school, I wasn’t very good to begin with, however I always enjoy a challenge. I trained at Cardiff and Vale College, then moved onto a small restaurant in Penarth called the Fig Tree. I learnt the basic fundamentals of having a seasonal and fresh food ethos here that gave me a grounding for the rest off my career.
After the Fig Tree I spent 7 years at Lucknam Park under the guidance of Hywel Jones. This is really where I developed my skills and knowledge. I also learnt the most important skill from Hywel, that was how to manage and take care of a team of amazing chefs
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
- Trying new food and developing new ideas.
- Meeting new and exciting people.
- Seeing chefs develop.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
- Beef fat
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
- My charcoal grill
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?~
I’m spotting a lot of trends in plant based cookery. This is something that has always interested me. I love creating a dish around a whole vegetable.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Not thinking before acting. I always tell my chefs to slow down and think about what they are doing.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Has to be autumn, so many exciting and versatile foods.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
That’s a tough one, I am proud of everything that we cook.
How do you come up with new dishes?
I usually use inspiration from old cookbooks and try to put my spin on them.
Who was your greatest influence?
My greatest influence in my career would have to be my parents. The always supported me in everything I have done and are always there when I need them.
Tell us three chefs you admire.
- Callum Franklin
- Hywel Jones
- Tom Kerridge
What is your favourite cookbook?
My current favourite cook book is the Hawksmoor Cookbook, I love there ethos on sourcing there meat.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
I would watch Dean Westcar and Iain Dixon from Crockers in Henley. I’m defiantly looking forward to eating their food.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I’m looking forward to the reopening of every restaurant.