Published on August 29, 2014

TKerridgeNew Image

Chef Tom Kerridge has gained himself a name as a West Country traditionalist with a passion for pub grub. “Appearing on The Great British Menu, the thing I was most proud of is that I came across as me,” Kerridge says. “There were no airs and graces, no pretence and I’ve kept up that mantra since.” True to form, the chef cuts a friendly, approachable figure throughout our chat.

Kerridge was just 18 when he entered the kitchen as a commis chef at Calcot Manor in Tetbury. Moving to London in his early 20s, Kerridge honed his skills at restaurants including Odettes, Rhodes in The Square, Stephen Bull and The Capital.

He’s worked with all the big names in the culinary world, and credits “being in the kitchen” as paramount to his education. Today, Kerridge’s recipes, from his lasagne to his pie to his beef brisket (“with a lovely barbeque sauce”), reflect his passion for upmarket comfort food.

Kerridge became head chef at Adlards in Norwich and senior sous chef at Monsieur Max in Hampton before opening his own gastro pub, The Hand and Flowers, in 2005, gaining a Michelin star just a year in. Nearly a decade on – and another Michelin star later – Kerridge has become a familiar face on our telly screens. A Saturday Kitchen regular, the chef calls his double Michelin starred gastro pub his “biggest achievement.”

The Gloucestershire-raised chef is all about “big, strong and robust” flavours, and calls “love” the key ingredient to any dish.

“If it’s created with love then when you eat it you’ll feel the soul that went into it – that’s the thing that makes it comforting.”

With his food pleasing to the eye without being overly fussy, Kerridge is quick to champion the ‘pub grub’ movement currently taking over the UK, paying lip service to the quintessentially British phenomenon.

“There’s about 15 chefs now in pubs with Michelin stars, and that’s a wonderful place to be in,” he says. “It’s a great advert for British food across the world.”

Kerridge adds, “There are great pubs doing great food that haven’t got Michelin stars too, and their understanding of food is just fantastic.”

Living up to his down-to-earth persona, Kerridge says “I‘m not trying to break down boundaries and look for something new with my dishes: I like to look to the old instead and see if we can improve on it.”

“When you look at Great Britain and what it’s built around, whether it’s manufacturing, whether it’s food, whether it’s farming, it’s all solid, rustic, heart and soul and honest,” he explains. “Those are the sort of dishes that I draw inspiration from. I look for tradition and I look for history in food.”

As his series Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes is returning to our screens – “It’s a continuation of the proper pub food that was such a success last year. I enjoyed working with everyone from the camera men to the director” – Kerridge alerts us to his cardinal kitchen rule.

“Never cook something that you wouldn’t want to eat,” he says, sternly. For this chef, total enjoyment is paramount.

“It’s alright to cook something you’ve never cooked before, and to experiment, but make sure it’s something you want to try. That love will defiantly come across in whatever you cook.”

Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes airs on BBC2 this autumn.