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Ones to watch: Tom Brown

Ones to watch: Tom Brown

by Tom Shingler 08 July 2016

As the head chef of Outlaw's at The Capital, Tom Brown knows how to cook the best fish in London. Tom Shingler sat down with him to find out how he became Nathan Outlaw's most trusted chef.

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As far as Michelin-starred fish restaurants go, it’s hard to imagine anyone opening one better than Nathan Outlaw’s. What started off in Rock in Cornwall branched out to Port Isaac to include a two-starred restaurant, a pub and Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, before the chef made the jump to London in 2012 to open Outlaw’s at The Capital. Just one year later, it won a Michelin star.

While Nathan is still heavily involved in the restaurant, head chef duties fall on the shoulders of Tom Brown, appointed at the start of 2016 after running the kitchen at Nathan’s former restaurant at the St Enodoc Hotel. A Cornwall local himself, he’s been working with seafood for years.

‘I got into cooking by accident,’ Tom explains. ‘I was working up the road at my local pub in Cornwall as a kitchen porter, and had fallen out of love with being in a classroom at college. I started helping out making pizzas and doing a bit of prep, and got hooked. I loved the creativity, the sense of pride and the immediate gratification that comes from cooking. Seeing the produce come in, I started to become more interested in the sourcing side of things and the food itself. I liked finding ingredients that were absolutely perfect and required little to no cooking.’

By this point Tom had finished his apprenticeship and was eager to take the next step in his career, but wasn’t sure where to start working locally. ‘I was quite cut off from the rest of the cooking world down in Cornwall,’ he says, ‘so I just wrote to every TV chef I could think of. It was 2008 and Bryn Williams was on Great British Menu – he called me himself and invited me to go and do a stage in his restaurant. I remember him getting in whole fish, entire salt marsh lambs, things like that; I’d never seen that before. It made me realise I wanted more than a kitchen that churned out pub food, and after a stint working in places around Falmouth I ended up working with Paul Ripley at Rick Stein’s restaurant, before joining Nathan in 2012.’

Tom Brown and Nathan Outlaw
Tom has been working with Nathan since 2012, and was given the head chef role at Outlaw's at The Capital in January 2016
His cooking features the freshest Cornish produce, with simple ingredients to accompany the seafood's natural flavour

From the source

With experience in the kitchens of Rick Stein’s Seafood Bar and the St Kew Inn, Tom developed a natural speciality with cooking fish and became even more interested in the sourcing side of things. ‘I was quite new to the industry back then, but it felt like using local produce and really caring about the ingredients was a huge thing that was only just getting the attention it deserved,’ he says. ‘When I was at the St Kew Inn with Paul the scallops were hand-dived from very close by, guys were catching fish in Padstow and bringing it over and there were farms literally at the end of the road which we’d work with. I’d never seen that before so it was a new thing for me at least, but now it’s very much the done thing and almost sacrilege not to – which is good for everyone involved.’

In 2012, Tom joined Nathan as chef de partie at the St Enodoc Hotel, before eventually working his way up to head chef. Since starting at Outlaw’s at The Capital, he’s been enjoying life in a Michelin-starred kitchen – although he’s careful not to let the pressure get to him. ‘I try not to think about the star, as it’ll just lead to too much worry,’ he says. ‘All we can do is the absolute best and what we know works. The recipes we use are the same as in Nathan’s two-star restaurant in Cornwall and the produce is the same, but there’s this responsibility to keep the culinary heritage of The Capital going. People like Eric Chavot, Tom Kerridge, Gary Rhodes and Brian Turner have worked here previously, so sometimes I feel like I’ve sneaked into an A-list party.’

Stay fresh

The aim of Outlaw’s at The Capital is simple – to serve the best fish in London. ‘Everything is very simple and sometimes there are just two elements on the plate, such as a fish and a sauce,’ says Tom. ‘This means the fish has to be the best the diner has ever tasted, and there is no room for error with the sauce. Also, getting the very best produce when it’s as fresh as possible is key. Nathan already had the relationships with fishermen and suppliers down in Cornwall, so that’s where we get ours. We get in fish that’s so fresh and with so much rigor mortis we can’t even prep it that day – a problem very few chefs in the world have!’

While Tom is in charge of the daily operations of the restaurant, Nathan is still heavily involved with any new developments, working very closely with the team. ‘We’re always texting or chatting about ideas for the restaurant,’ says Tom. ‘It’s like having a boss and a teacher as I’m learning from him every day. There’s no one better to learn fish cookery from, so I’m in a really good place. I appreciate the same things about food as Nathan does; the no frills simplicity and cleanliness on the plate.’ Tom and Nathan’s combined expertise has certainly helped shape one of London’s best restaurants, and when it comes to fish, you can’t find anything better in the city.

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Ones to watch: Tom Brown


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