The Wordrobe gets up close and professional with Ben Tish, Culinary Director of The Stafford London
The chef with the “simple, seasonal, full-flavoured” cooking style, The Wordrobe speaks with Ben Tish about his 20-year kitchen career, love for barbecues and tips for getting ahead in the culinary world.
What inspired you to become a chef?
It was the opportunity to move from a small seaside town to London without a degree. I had a couple of friends in London who were chefs, so I took the plunge.
The first couple of years were more about surviving than actually being passionate about cheffing but that soon changed after working with an inspirational team and I knew it was what I wanted to do for my career.
Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background…?
I did a few months at a local college and then got a lucky opportunity to start as a commis chef at The Ritz in London.
I had little experience so it was very tough but I got through it and then went to work at a restaurant called Coast in Mayfair with Stephen Terry and Jason Atherton.
I had a short spell working with Marcus Waring at L’Oranger and then I worked with Jason and Stephen again at Frith Street, where we pushed for a Michelin star. This was an incredible experience and one I’ll never forget.
After all this my culinary direction changed and I started at the modern northern Italian restaurant Al Duca, becoming Head Chef after a year.
This changed my food philosophy to being completely focused on produce, seasonality, flavour and simplicity – all fairly ubiquitous now but at the time it was a niche view.
After a detour working in the West Highlands of Scotland at the remote and beautiful Crinan Hotel, I went on to join and start the Salt Yard Group, where I was a co-owner and launched 5 restaurants with the group over 11 years. I left in April 2017 to have a year out and decide what direction to go next.
I joined The Stafford London earlier this year as Culinary Director, overseeing the food offering in the hotel including The Game Bird restaurant and the American Bar. In the new year, in will be working on new external restaurant projects with the hotel.
What can guests expect from the menu at The Game Bird?
The menu at The Game Bird focuses on elevated British classics – we take the produce and technique in the dishes seriously to make them the best they can be. When in season, we focus on game, incorporated it into a wide range of dishes.
There’s a very popular smoked fish trolley, with the fish carved and served table side, and on Sundays we serve a beautiful Sunday roast featuring a beef forerib carved from a silver trolley.
What does hospitality mean to you?
Hospitality means welcoming, generous, conviviality and sociability.
Describe your cooking style in three words.
Simple, seasonal, full-flavoured.
Do you have a favourite cooking technique?
I favour all techniques but in the summer I’m usually glued to a BBQ.
Name three of your favourite restaurants
1 The Quality Chop House
2 The River Cafe
3 The Wolseley
Do you have any role models?
For different reasons I have much respect for Yotam Ottolenghi, Jason Atherton, Oliver Peyton and Tim Hughes.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
Get a good apprenticeship/experience in a solid restaurant where they make everything from scratch, and stick there a few years to soak it all up. Even if you go in a different direction you’ll have this valuable knowledge.
Also. don’t get too bogged down in the kitchen – get out and have a life, visit new restaurants and try new experiences, it will all help your career.
Finally… what’s your favourite midnight snack?
My wife’s quick fix Welsh rarebit.
Try Ben’s dishes for yourself at The Game Bird
16-18 St James’s Pl, St. James’s, London SW1A 1NJ