My Life In Food: Luke Thomas, Britain's youngest head chef

 

Before donning the head chef's whites at Luke's Dining Room at Sanctum on the Green, Berkshire, Thomas, who is 18, worked at Chester Grosvenor Hotel. He has done work placements at some of the most famous restaurants in the world, including The Fat Duck, Alinea in Chicago and the French Laundry pop-up at Harrods.

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

It isn't really kit, per se, but I really couldn't live without cling film. I use it for poaching meats – pretty much everything I cook in a water bath will come into contact with cling film at some point – and also, and this is important if you're as keen on tidiness in the kitchen as I am, for wrapping uncooked food in. I could live without water baths and even a stove, but not cling film. I'm not really much seduced by gadgets – I like to keep things simple. But I did once buy a juicer, which sits, untouched, in its box.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I'd go to the Hawarden Estate farm shop near to my parent's house in Flintshire. It is a wonderful place; it has such wonderful fresh fruit and veg. I love the strawberries in the summer. But I wouldn't spend my last £10 on any of that, I'd buy a few of their sausage rolls, instead – I think they're the best in the world.

What do you eat for comfort?

I eat hearty British food: fish pies, stews, crumbles, that sort of thing. When I'm at home for the weekend I always get my grandmother to cook rhubarb crumble. She does it in the classical gran way: it tastes stodgy and overcooked – and wonderful. I've never had another like it.

If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Well, that is incredibly hard for me to answer because my daily treat is crushed buttered potatoes on warm bread from the oven in the restaurant. But if it came down to it, I'd most probably say bread. Olive, bacon, spinach or walnut flavoured bread, I love them all.

What's your desert island recipe?

I'm particularly fond of a meat glaze, which I learnt while doing a stint with Adam Perry Lang at Barbecoa. You get a big pan and add butter, beef fat, tomato, chopped herbs and melt it until its nice and runny and then spread it onto a raw steak (at Barbecoa we used bunches of herbs to brush it on), then grill.

What's your favourite restaurant?

The Freemasons at Wiswell in Clitheroe. It ticks loads of boxes. The food is creative without being too fiddly, it's a nice old building and has a stylish dining room. They also do the most amazing egg custards.

What's your favourite cookbook?

Thomas Keller's The French Laundry. I got it when I was about 13. Up until then my gran had bought me really rubbish cookbooks she'd picked up from the charity shop. And then I got this and it blew my mind. It's the most inspirational cookbook I've come across. When I met Keller at the French Laundry pop-up it was like I was meeting my favourite pop star.

Who taught you to cook?

I've learnt from all the chefs I've worked with. But Daniel Hunter has been the biggest influence. He was my first college lecturer when I was doing my City and Guilds and he taught me so much.

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