Tom Sellers has learned some important things from his mentors – discipline, detail and the power of imagining through food.
Tom has been in the British culinary scene for over 13 years working in some of the world’s best kitchens – including his own, Restaurant Story. He has huge admiration for his peers, who he credits with having shaped and guided him whilst giving him the skills and vision to be the extraordinary chef that he is now.
Here the Michelin-starred chef talks about where he started his career, how he provides the best possible experience for his guests, and what’s next for Restaurant Story.
You’ve been working in the industry for over 13 years, where did it start?
As a pot washer in my local pub. The head chef took me under his wing and noticed that I worked hard and had an affinity for kitchen life. It was he that suggested that I go and work for Tom Aikens.
You’ve credited that it was under Tom Aikens where you learned how to cook Michelin star standard food. Where did you work after your time with Tom?
I went on to work for two years at Per Se in New York under Thomas Keller. When I came back to London I spent a few years at Trinity restaurant, still cooking but also learning about the business of restaurants.
After that I went to work at Noma in Copenhagen, under chef Rene Redzepi, for just over a year. At the time it was recognised as the number one in the world. Rene taught me how to imagine through food.
In 2013 you opened your own restaurant, Restaurant Story. It gained its first Michelin star only five months after opening when you were only 26. What’s your philosophy?
To provide the best possible experience for guests. Not just in terms of the food and the drinks, but the overall experience. That, and to never stop getting better.
How do you deliver the best possible experience?
Attention to detail and by responding to feedback. If something isn’t right in one of my restaurants, I am the first to admit it and will find a way to fix it.
Where do you find inspiration and how do you stay creative?
I’m a seasonal cook so that plays a big part as ingredients come in and out of availability. Creativity can be spiked anywhere. Even conversations can plant a seed that becomes an idea.
The industry is changing with new restaurant concepts, regulations, and staffing challenges. What keeps you up at night?
How to constantly keep bettering ourselves as a business. This can be the restaurant itself, the operations behind it or of course, the dishes. I can’t leave something alone if it isn’t right.
You’ve been in the industry for over 13 years and have achieved success. What is your best advice for aspiring restaurateurs?
You have to believe firmly in what you’re doing as a lot of people will tell you that it won’t work along the way.
What industry developments are you excited about?
I love the international excitement around food. Chefs can now take their ideas, inspiration and concepts all over the world and through social media and international coverage, people have already heard of them and want to try it.
I have a book coming out in October (20th) which I’m really excited about – it’s been a long time in the making. After that, I have a restaurant in Hong Kong opening in 2017.
Photos courtesy of Gary Esprit for Restaurant Ours