The Evening Standard Magazine has today published an interview with Tom Sellers, the outspoken chef-patron of Restaurant Story in Bermondsey. Looking at one of the newspaper’s cover lines, it seems the main hook for the piece is that he knows and has cooked for the newly-engaged princess-to-be, Meghan Markle. Though, of course, he won’t comment on that. Fortunately, he comments on plenty besides.
Here are the 11 best lines:
- “[By the end he’s talking about] ‘fucking dickhead journalists’”: Here, one has to assume that Sellers is referring to Fay Maschler, the same newspaper’s food critic, who wrote an unfavourable one-star review of his second restaurant, Ours, to which the chef penned an infamous public response. Itself a passage that could warrant a separate 11 best lines, but which is perhaps best understood by this outstanding piece of textbook pass-ag: “I couldn’t help but think that maybe Fay had done one too many restaurants that week, which had left her unable to correctly identify the ingredients in the dish placed before her,” he wrote.
- Sellers has a gift for answering his own questions: “Am I passionate about what I do? Yes. Am I my own harshest critic? Yes. Do the people around me feel that at times? Yes. But I am by no means a bully.”
- On that response to Maschler’s review, in which he included the word “Fay” 16 times: “Deep down criticism is hard to take. It was about me saying to people it is actually okay to want to respond or to stand your ground. It wasn’t anything personal.”
- About his second restaurant, which since it went awry, the emphasis has been on his 12 month consultancy, but which at the time it opened was all about him: “What everyone learned really quickly, including the owners, was me being involved brought more problems than solutions.”
- He’s had his fair share of stick — some of it disgustingly inappropriate: But “I just don’t look at it any more...Because I’ve changed as a person.”
- On self-belief: “I am one of the most competitive people you are ever likely to meet. If someone said, ‘You couldn’t lift that table’ [he points at a table for six in Story’s dining room], I would be like, ‘Yes I can.’”
- He chooses not to focus on his contemporaries in the restaurant industry, instead looking to the generation that came before: [Tom Aikens, Rene Redzepi, Claude Bosi, Clare Smyth, and Brett Graham.] “I always had this vision of making my idols my rivals...I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.”
- He’s not so chuffed that his restaurant didn’t receive a second Michelin star this year: “Am I happy with the accolades Story has so far? No.”
- On the fame he has found as a chef: “‘Have I found myself at parties that I never thought I would attend?’ ‘Yeah, of course. And there are a few people I have managed to cook for several times and have a relationship with.’”
- And on famous friends — and people he’s cooked for: “I remember going shopping with Professor Green: he needed to get some gym stuff...For some fucked-up reason we went to Nike Town on Oxford Street...I have cooked for the super-famous, the Leos [DiCaprio and his ilk], and that becomes a journey, just getting them to the restaurant and getting them out. To have to live your life in that mindset must be a lonely place.
- More on his own fame: “I get noticed in Sainsbury’s once a week and that’s fine.”
Buried in the article is also the news that Sellers is planning to open his third restaurant — which will be called 13 — next year. “All I can tell you is...it will be aimed towards the youth of London, and not just in food; in art, in culture, in music,” Sellers said.
- Rebel with a cause: meet London chef Tom Sellers [Evening Standard]