Pidgin in Hackney — the small tasting menu restaurant known for its complete weekly menu overhaul — has announced the appointment of a new head chef. Owners James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy, who also run Magpie on Heddon Street in central London, told Eater that Greg Clarke will take over the kitchen from 11 March. He replaces Adolfo De Cecco, who is planning to open his own restaurant.
Ramsden said: “We couldn’t be more excited to announce Greg as head chef at Pidgin. We’re lucky enough as it is to get a blank slate with a new menu each week, so the changing of head chef gives us even more opportunity to push Pidgin forwards.”
Clarke counts Tom Aikens restaurant, Brett Graham’s The Ledbury, the Roux’s Le Gavroche, and Restaurant Martin Wishart in Edinburgh as former employers. Most recently in London, however, Clarke was appointed head chef at 108 Garage, the new-wave chunky ceramic-loving restaurant in Notting Hill. Under somewhat mysterious circumstances, Clarke left that restaurant after only a month in charge last May.
When there, Clarke was serving a six-course tasting dinner menu for £60, which changed daily. Pidgin’s template is a four-course (plus snacks) weekly-changing menu, which the chef is embracing:
“I feel lucky to be joining such an inspiring team, at East London’s most innovative restaurant. I’m excited for the opportunity to take Pidgin to the next level,” Clarke said.
Ramsden added: “Greg’s background in both classical and contemporary styles of cooking provides great scope for a new direction, and Sam and I can’t wait to start writing menus with him.
“We’re really proud to operate a restaurant where ambitious and creative chefs get the opportunity to show their creativity whilst still giving our guests flat-out delicious food, and we’re looking forward to taking Pidgin onto the next level.”
Pidgin opened on Wilton Way, near London Fields in Hackney in July, 2015. Since then, per the restaurant’s Instagram chronicle, it has served 720 different dishes. In October 2016, under the first head chef Elizabeth Haigh (then Allen), the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star (in the 2017 guide). A year later, it lost the star, prompting questions of the Red Guide’s willingness to remove stars from restaurants it felt uneasy awarding in the first place.
The restaurant, which has only 28 seats, was awarded the Observer Food Monthly restaurant of the year gong in 2017, with then head chef Dan Graham responsible for the food.
Both Allen and Graham, like De Cecco has pledged, left to open their own places. And though both chef’s projects are currently still works in progress, such confidence is testament to Pidgin’s ability to give its head chef enough autonomy to develop the output in their own image, without it being their own.