Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Tom Kitchin is the youngest chef to be awarded a Michelin Star. While he trained with some of the top chefs worldwide, he made his own mark on the restaurant industry in 2006 after opening up his restaurant The Kitchin.
What do you love about being a chef?
Most of my life has been dedicated to cooking. I live, breathe and think about food every day. While the pressures may get to some people, I get an adrenalin rush from the buzz of the kitchen. After a 17 hour day, I’ll go home and think about what I want to do with the next.
What are your least favourite memories?
So many times during the start of my career I was ready to pack it in. I was 18 when I began working at Pierre Koffmann’s Michelin Star restaurant. In addition to being poor, battered and lonely, you’re putting in long hours and getting nothing right. However, in order for it to be worthwhile in the end, you have to find that passion and stick it out. You have to remember that the tough times will carve your path for the future.
What is a common mistake chefs make in the industry?
It’s simple. The produce that is used in your dishes should always be seasonal and fresh. In addition to great taste, you’ll be able to better pair the textures and flavours the way Mother Nature intended. Our ethos at The Kitchin is “from nature to plate.” This means that everything that is prepared is fresh and delivered and served that same day.
Was it your goal to get a Michelin Star?
Definitely no. When I was training at Koffman in my early days of cooking, my primary goal was to survive. I wanted to last a year and return to Scotland. At the end of the year it had begun to get easier. I was also winning the trust of the other chefs.
At the close of a long day, what is your favourite meal to prepare?
I enjoy cooking when I have time off. My wife Michaela and I love foods that are uncomplicated and simple. A homemade meal consisting of langoustine, bread and a glass of white wine is the best.
Have you made sacrifices in order to get to the top?
I’ve made huge sacrifices over the years for my career. I’ve put in long hours, but it’s taken me to places such as Paris, Monte Carlo and London. I’ve been fortunate to open restaurants, work on private yachts and prepare food for the rich, famous and royal. However in this industry, there’s no substitute for working hard.
What do you think of the long hours?
I arrive early to the restaurant at 7 a.m. and leave around midnight. While I may be exhausted, I just don’t think too much about it. When I do get some time off, my body feels it, especially as I’ve gotten older. Since I easily fall asleep after a glass of wine and some food, my wife Michaela tries to delay the evening meal.
Do you have a particular favourite time of year for food?
Chefs, suppliers and gamekeepers eagerly await the first grouse in August. Game season embodies everything that is great about the produce in Scotland. Diners may even book as far as a year in advance to partake in this fresh and complex meal.
What have you noticed most about the new breed of chefs today?
They’re the calmest buggers that I’ve ever met. I’m an old school chef that lives a full-throttle lifestyle every day. However, the new breed of chefs are self-taught, cool and zen-like.
In order to find great success as a chef, do you need to relish the pressures of the job?
Yes, you need that extra energy to deal with the craziness that comes with the job week in and week out. The kitchen is an exciting place to be where you find yourself living on the edge, and the adrenaline pumping. Most chefs agree that nothing is worse than a quiet kitchen. You’re bound to experience problems when you lose that edge, and your staff begins to relax.
How do you deal with such a high pressured industry?
There is definitely a cost to running on high adrenaline. Back in the day, we would unwind with a drink. Hopefully the modern chefs of today find a better outlet to kick back and relax. My mentor Pierre Koffmann is used to doing the work of three as a chef, but he wouldn’t change things.
What dishes do you favour most?
I’m most proud of my shellfish rock pool. I use nature to inspire the sea vegetables and shellfish that make the dish such a pride and joy for the restaurant. It’s also a great way to showcase everything that Scotland has to offer. It’s unbelievable the amount of shellfish and fish that would arrive from my home of Scotland every day.
How do you come up with creative new dishes?
The dishes that I create at The Kitchin are based around the coupling of seasonal produce and what my suppliers bring me each day. I work with some of the best suppliers in the country that help me discover new and different ingredients. This then inspires me to develop new dishes for my guests. My cooking style is constantly evolving because I never rest. I’m always looking for ways to create something new and exciting through my favourite cooking methods.
Do you have plans for retirement on the horizon?
My goal is to make my restaurant the best that it can possibly be. I enjoy what I’m doing and cooking is my passion. You have to live by the golden rule that you’re only as good as your last meal. Don’t believe for an instant that you’ve finally succeeded.