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Luckily for Adam, he had been putting plans together to open his own restaurant – The Frog E1 – whilst working at St Ermin’s. However, this sudden change meant he had to leave immediately, and he could only take five of his seventeen chefs with him. ‘It was really emotional; we’d all worked so hard and put everything into the place, and then all of a sudden it was all gone. But I got jobs for the twelve chefs I couldn’t hire myself, and over the years I’ve been able to offer all of them a job. Today, fifteen of those original seventeen chef are working for me.’

The Frog E1 was when Adam really came into his own – shunning the luxurious ingredients and classical training of his past and bringing in influences of the food he experienced during his travels. ‘I worked my ass off and got five restaurant of the year awards within the first two years. It was phenomenal – the best experience of my life. Travelling helped me find myself as a person, because I was a nasty son of a bitch before that. E1, however, helped me discover the sort of food I wanted to cook. We started cutting down on salt and introducing soy instead; there were way more aromatics and ingredients like kimchi in British dishes, which made it quite different.’

The restaurant was a big success, and led to Adam opening a second restaurant – Frog by Adam Handling – in Covent Garden. This is now his restaurant group’s flagship, with a menu that best represents his style of cooking and a separate bar called Eve in the basement. ‘I wanted Covent Garden to be something that got us noticed,’ he says. ‘The menu is a reflection of our personality. There are only around twelve dishes on there but we change them whenever we want. Dishes can appear and disappear from one day to the next. We wanted it to be about theatre, too – Covent Garden is theatre land, after all – so we have the pass and kitchen in full view.’

Frog by Adam Handling enjoyed the same success as The Frog E1, offering a slightly more fine-dining-focused experience (although it’s still representative of his relaxed, contemporary style). The two worked in tandem until the lease ran out at E1, which meant Adam had to find a new site. Rather than a hindrance, this gave him the opportunity to take the essence of The Frog E1 and move it into a bigger site in Hoxton – just a leap away from his Shoreditch base. He took stock of all the mistakes he’d made when opening his first restaurant (which was done incredibly fast and saw the kitchen team helping with everything from painting the walls to attaching door handles) and learnt from them.

‘I took the soul of E1 and put it in a new body with a new direction,’ says Adam. ‘Hoxton is not the same as Shoreditch; people want things cheaper and quicker, so we changed the menu completely. Portions for the sharing plates were made bigger, we made sure everything was extremely affordable and learnt from everything we’d done in the past.’

This bigger location didn’t just mean a larger dining room and kitchen; it gave Adam the chance to open two other businesses. The Scottish-themed Iron Stag Bar and Bean & Wheat (a sustainable deli) gave him the chance to try his hand at something different. ‘No one would be able to tell that all three of those businesses were run by the same company – they each have their own identity.'

This is the current line-up for Adam Handling’s restaurant empire, but he’s already working on the next project (potentially his biggest yet). Teaming up with Belmond, he will be opening a restaurant (called Adam Handling Chelsea) and looking after all the food and beverage needs at the Cadogan Hotel, scheduled to open in February 2019. ‘It’s very different from my other restaurants – a bit more traditional, formal and old school,’ he explains. ‘At first, I didn’t want to do it because I’d had bad experiences with hotel restaurants in the past, but they made it clear they wanted me to have a restaurant within the hotel, rather than work in a more executive role. When I heard Belmond were covering the hotel side of things, it all fell into place – it’s the first time I’ve ever done a partnership, and if it works it’s going to be magical.’

Adam has now proved that he’s not just an incredibly ambitious and talented chef; he’s a dab hand at opening and running restaurants, too. Whether it’s fine dining tasting menus, bar snacks and cocktails, zero-waste deli lunches or room service for a world-class hotel group, he has it covered. While he’s yet to get a Michelin star – something he says he’d love to get but certainly isn’t chasing – he's won a whole host of other awards that prove Adam is a chef at the top of his game. And a meal at any of his establishments is testament to that.

Three things you should know

Having a variety of restaurants means Adam can implement a zero-waste policy across his empire. Prime cuts go to Frog by Adam Handling; secondary cuts go to The Frog Hoxton, and anything leftover at the end of a service is turned into delicious limited-run dishes at Bean & Wheat.

Adam’s signature dish is a plate of celeriac, truffle and apple called ‘Mother’ (a tribute to his mum after she told him she’d decided to become vegetarian), which can be found on the menu of all his restaurants.

Adam worked with bartenders Matt Whiley and Rich Woods to come up with the cocktail list at Iron Stag, in a bid to make whisky more accessible.