tom kerridge

Meet the chef: Tom Kerridge of Kerridge’s Bar & Grill and The Hand & Flowers

18 Dec 2023 | |By Annie Lewis

2023 has been a busy for Tom Kerridge. As the new year approaches, we ask why Marlow for his Michelin-star debut, and what’s in store next year

It takes quite a lot to turn a local boozer into a two Michelin-starred pub – the first, may I add, in the UK. Often, celebrated chefs go after the star in the comfort of the capital – which boasts no fewer than 71 star-studded restaurants – but that wasn’t the case for Tom Kerridge. No, he decided to venture to the not-so-sleepy town of Marlow in Buckinghamshire, which may boast its own slice of the River Thames but hasn’t, rather unsurprisingly, got a touch on London’s food scene. 

It was no easy feat, but it was one that made Kerridge famous in 2006. Despite working for the likes of Gary Rhodes and Stephen Bull, little was known about the young actor-turned-chef from Gloucester before his debut in Marlow. However, the ambitious Hand and Flowers, pioneered by Kerridge and his wife Beth, has certainly paid off, kickstarting a cheffing empire that’s now so vast it can’t fit in a headline.

Today, Kerridge helms his eponymous restaurants at London’s Corinthia Hotel, his newly-opened fish and chips joint at Harrods Dining Hall, two outposts of the Butcher’s Tap and Grill (in Chelsea and Marlow), and another pub in the same town called The Coach. Just like Rick Stein has Padstow, Kerridge, undeniably, has Marlow. 

Six restaurants means a lot of menus and constant dish development – something which Kerridge says he loves and is still very much involved in. With fingers in so many pies, you’d imagine it would be hard to maintain the innovation and creation expected from starry establishments but Kerridge ensures his menus reflect not only his DNA but also that of his similarly-large empire of head chefs.

Dishes across the board reflect his love for British classics – elevated with quality cuts of meat, fresh seafood, and sustainable produce – but range from hearty brisket burgers and fries, traditional fish and chips and delectable Sunday roasts to fancier plates of lobster thermidor, squid lasagne, and game keema muffin with black pudding purée. 

So, how does Kerridge juggle it all? And why, back in 2005, did he choose Marlow for his Michelin-star debut? We get the lowdown. 

How did it all start?

I think, as a chef, you work in a few kitchens to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t and there comes a time when you start thinking ‘I want to do it my way’ and ‘I want to put my own stamp on something’. My wife Beth and I wanted to find a little pub that we could fix up and run as a business, serving great food with a really welcoming vibe – and that ethos has never changed nearly 20 years later.

Why Marlow?

Marlow was where we founded The Hand and Flowers. It was a little run-down pub, with a tiny kitchen that you could hardly swing a cat in, but it felt right. We just decided to go for it, and spent the next few years living above the pub and working constantly. It was incredibly hard, but we knew we were creating something special and in 2006, when we were recognised by the Michelin Guide, all that hard work [paid off] and it felt amazing. Winning a second star a few years later was the icing on the cake.

How has the restaurant scene changed in the last 10 years?

It’s changed dramatically; there are now so many amazing chefs that have bought pubs and restaurants in the country or in more remote areas and they are doing some incredible things, like Gareth Ward and Tom Shepherd, for example. Chefs in those areas may be able to grow their own produce and really champion local ingredients, it’s lovely to see.

Kerridge's Bar & Grill at the Corinthia celebrated five years recently. How do you keep your London outpost fresh amid all the competition?

London is competitive but I think we evolve and continue to surprise and inspire guests, and much of that is thanks to head chef Nick Beardshaw, who is an incredible talent. I also think it’s about being consistent; guests want to know that when they come it’s great each and every time and that’s something we are very proud of.

Simplicity is so important when it comes to seafood. How do you choose the ingredients for your fish dishes at Harrods Dining Hall?

I work with an amazing fish supplier called Flying Fish, and have done for many years now. They know what we want, essentially the best catch of the day, and they make sure we get it. You don’t have to play around with good quality fish; it needs to be treated with respect and the flavours will just shine through.

Can sustainability in restaurants ever become the norm?

Yes, of course, and it’s going that way. It doesn’t just make sense for the planet, but financially too. For me it’s about using the seasons and evolving the menu throughout the year so it’s always showcasing the best ingredients at the best time, and as a consequence the ingredients should be at their most economical.

Are there any future dishes you are working on currently that you can tell us about?

We are always working on dish development, it’s part of our DNA. We have just opened the Butcher’s Tap and Grill in Chelsea so that’s really exciting!

What are your favourite restaurants in the UK?

That’s a hard one, I would probably say Paul Ainsworth at No.6 [in Padstow] – what a gem! Claude Bosi at Bibendum is stunning and I don’t think you could have a top three without Core by Clare Smyth.

What’s next for you in 2024?

In 2024 we will be focusing on the businesses that we have and making sure they are really solid. We also have Pub In the Park [Kerridge’s food and music festival in St Albans] returning in 2024 which will be great, and I am looking forward to some exciting things with M&S as well.


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