He also has a colourful list of Michelin starred restaurants on his CV including Maze by Gordon Ramsay, The Fat Duck, and The Hand and Flowers to name a few.
At Rathfinny, we’re really lucky to work with some amazing local suppliers such as Namayasai Farm; a hidden gem just down the road in Lewes. Robin and Ikuku grow Japanese vegetables in their all organic farm, also supplying to lots of well-known restaurants in London. I love the authenticity of their business – they call us the day before and pick the produce fresh on the morning it arrives with us. The taste of the ingredients is really something else when it comes in! We use Namayasai along with other seasonal suppliers to create modern, refined dishes. We often pair these with meat and fish cooked on the Big Green Egg BBQ over last year’s grapevines.
At home, I’d say my favourite cuisine to cook is actually Lebanese. I love how the fragrant spices melt together with sweet cinnamon, combined with an appropriate heat from a harissa paste, and finished with floral rose petals to get your taste buds dancing all over the place. It’s food that makes me happy! I’m currently macro-counting, so it’s important for me to find food that keeps me inspired while aligning with my physical goals. One of my go-to dishes to prep is a take on Ottolenghi’s ‘Celebration Rice’, found in his latest book ‘Shelf Love’. It’s great to prepare at the beginning of the week, so I can take it into work without needing to worry about cooking something healthy each day.
I was born in Birmingham, but I moved to Brighton when I was 3 years old. I just about managed to escape the Brummy accent!
I have this vivid memory of walking down the hidden lanes behind my Dad’s mum’s (aka ‘Nanniator’) house in Birmingham. We used to live about 50 houses down, so I spent a lot of my earlier years over hers. She would take my hand and we’d go blackberry picking together. Nan would then cook them up with some apples to make a compote, or what she used to call ‘noodle groodle’. I think that’s where I discovered a love for cooking.
The pandemic led me to discovering a passion for fitness. I think with all the bad that came from Covid, people were able to take a look at their lives and make certain changes to better themselves. For me, it ignited my love for running, functional bodybuilding and more recently I’ve entered fitness competitions. Whilst I used to love cross-country running at school, I left that behind when I started training to be a chef at 16 years old. I really wish I’d carried on when I was younger as it is great for your mental health as much as your physical health.
It’s had a profound impact on my work and outlook on my future. I was very much at a crossroads in my life where I’d been going down a long and dark path into self-destruction. I had hit rock bottom and I was riddled with depression and anxiety, both of which I self-soothed with an uncontrollable cocaine addiction (very optimistically thinking this could save me in some way). I didn’t think I was worth saving. I had one of two choices to make; stay silent and endure the rest of my potentially short life suffering, or come clean about everything by talking to my parents. They came forward with arms opened wide and hugged me, telling me they loved me unconditionally and that we would get through this together. I can’t thank my family and friends for their unmistakable support, because without them I would not be the man I am today.
In November 2019 I impulsively decided that I wanted to enter the Brighton Marathon, having no recent experience, no baseline fitness to bounce off. The inspiration behind it was my grandparents, both of whom very sadly passed away within a year of each other. With various lockdowns postponing the marathon three times, it meant I spent a lot of 2020 – 2021 stopping and starting training, but it was actually through this that I discovered the power of training on our mental health. Since igniting this passion for fitness I’ve entered several competitions and races. I find that pushing my mental resilience in races really translates to day to day life, because if I can get through it that time, there’s nothing to say I can’t push through the challenge again.
In April 2021 I completed my own solo Marathon before completing the official Marathon in September, proudly raising £1,572 for Alzheimer’s Society. This has encouraged me to continue raising money for Alzheimer’s as well as the charity, Mind, in memory of my old school friend, Nick Ota, who sadly took his own life aged 18.
Today, I’m the happiest and the best version of myself I’ve ever been. I’ve dropped 31kg, come clean about my addiction and I’ve proven that I can achieve anything that I put my mind to. There’s a definitive way up from hitting that rock bottom. Some people’s bottoms are lower than others, but it’s all relative to the individual. I’m a massive advocate for talking about mental health and invite anyone who needs help to find someone to open up to. Drop me a message even if you don’t know me. If you suspect a friend might be in a bad place, ask them if they are truly OK. It might just save them.
There’s almost too many to list but I’d say that one of my proudest moments was when I became head-chef at The Woolpack in Tenterden, Kent. As a budding 20 year old, it was here that I found myself at my most creative, taking charge of a dynamic monthly menu, which later led to a mention in this Guardian review!
Being called ‘Big Balls’ by Gordon Ramsay has to be up there as well. Funny story – I have a short video of us awkwardly smiling for a photo at a staff party because the person who took my phone had it on the wrong setting!
Breaking my collar-bone whilst working at Maze by Gordon Ramsay has to be top. I returned to work straight away and it has never fully healed.
My dream is to have my own restaurant. I’ve picked up a lot of my techniques and flavour fusions from others throughout my 14 year career, so I’d say I need a little bit more time to explore my niche. All I know is it would be food that delivers on flavour – none of this style over substance rubbish.
I often use the ‘Eat The Seasons’ website and jot down ideas with what’s in season. I also enjoy flicking through my collection of cookbooks. One of my favourites is called ‘The Flavour Thesaurus’ – an A-Z guide of ingredients and all the things they pair well with. You can find unsurprising pairings like chocolate and vanilla, but you probably wouldn’t think you could match chocolate with olives, or cauliflower like Heston Blumenthal does!
Eating at The Fat Duck after completing a month’s internship, or as it’s often called in the Industry a ‘Stage’. Having worked in the kitchen, I observed the meticulous detail which goes into the experience from start to finish. Once I sat down in the dining room and experienced it for myself it was a dream come true. It was also my first and only 3 Michelin star meal I’ve ever had.
The trouble with listing places you want to eat at is that the list never gets any smaller! I’d say L’enclume, Core by Clare Smyth, Sat Bains, Barrafina, Elystan Street, The Ledbury (once it reopens), and Casamia are all up there.
Published: 25th January 2022