Ahead of launching The Test Kitchen in Soho, Adam Simmonds talks exclusively with Placed

Wed 04 2017  |  admin

On April 27th, acclaimed chef Adam Simmonds will bound onto the capital’s dining scene with his debut London opening, The Test Kitchen on Frith Street in Soho, W1.

When and how did you start working in the hospitality industry / as a chef?

I’ve been in the industry for about 28 years now. I’m dyslexic so I really struggled at school and I found that I could really express myself through food and being in the kitchen rather than having to write stuff down on paper.

I was 14 when I realised my love for the kitchen, it was at school in my home economics class.

My first job was at a pub called The Globe Inn, just outside of Leighton Buzzard. I was a pot wash and from there I evolved to making sandwiches. I remember there was a little hut outside by the canal where we’d sell from in the summertime and it used to scare the shit out of me because I knew I’d have to be taking money and dealing with payments.

Once I finished my courses, I took an apprenticeship at Le Gavroche in London and was made Commis Chef at 18. I’ve had a pretty exciting career since then working at The Ritz, The Halkin, The Lanesborough and l’Escargot. My dream was really realised when I joined Le Manoir aux Quat’Saison working beneath Raymond Blanc, it was like a finishing school.

It took my first Head Chef position at Ynyshir Hall another daunting experience, where I was awarded my first Michelin Star and then again at “Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House” along with a Catey Award, 4AA rosettes and 8/10 in the Good Food Guide, it was really rewarding for a lot of hard work.

Could you tell us a bit more about your latest concept?

The Test Kitchen concept is a way in to a permanent site for us. Literally testing out the things we want to put together for the eventual restaurant, a place where I can involve my guests in it directly.

Obviously when you open a restaurant you need that time to develop your brand so it’s really a way of me getting back into London, testing the dishes, building the team and really refining the concept for the bigger picture.

The Test Kitchen is a one year pop-up focused on small plates divided into 3 categories: meat, fish and veg, priced anywhere between £8 and £23. The ambience is set to be friendly and casual with a very interactive experience. It’s all bar seating so guests will be able to see what’s going on and really interact with the staff.

When guests arrive they will be given the menu along with an “idea card” explaining the concept and afterwards when you’re given the bill, there’ll be a feedback card which will help understand what the guest experience is, and that will help me to define a bigger menu and dishes that we can take to the permanent site based on what our guests enjoy the most.

What do you love most about this industry?

I’ve been in it for 28 years and I’ve gained a lot personally and professionally but I’ve also been put through the ringer. It can be really, really tough.
When you can talk to other chefs and see we all encounter the same problems and its become harder and harder to recruit good chefs, but when on the other hand you can train someone and move them through the ranks, it’s a great feeling to be a part of that process and see someone progress, that’s very rewarding.

I also don’t think there’s a better industry out there for being part of a family.

What are the best tips for working a busy kitchen?

Treat it like a profession, concentrate and listen carefully when instructed keep chat to a minimum.

If you could five one very important top to a budding chef, what would it be?

• Never give up
• I think taking an apprenticeship is definitely the right way to go
• Learn the profession properly and get as much experience from working in the real world

What is more important to you in a candidate? training or passion?

• Passion for sure

What do you look for in good kitchen staff?

• Enthusiasm
• Willing to learn
• Want to be part of a team
• Balls!
• Be able to cook and be personable at the same time, which is important to us as everything is open so guests want to share in the experience.

What are your top 3 recruitment/interview tips for someone looking to work in the kitchen of a top London venue?

• Have a spark
• Come ready to get their hands dirty in the kitchen as we will always do a trial
• Always arrive on time with chef whites and knives
• Always arrived prepared and willing to give your best

What’s your favourite dish on the menu?

It’s a little hard to tell at this stage as we will continue to refine and develop them. I know what they are right now in my head, but they may change!

I am very excited about the sweetbreads though. It’s sweetbreads with broccoli slices, chickweed, grated truffle and foam. I think that’s gonna be a winner.

What trends are you most excited about in the London restaurant scene at the moment?

• I think the physical transparency of kitchens is becoming more and more what people are after. There’s nowhere to hide here at Test Kitchen, which is what I love.
• Open kitchens! Our bigger, permanent site will definitely have a big, open kitchen for all to see.
• Guests wanting to know more about where their food comes from

What are your 3 favourite restaurants in London? And what are their signature dishes?

• The White Oak in Cookham. Last time I went there, there was an incredible scallop dish
• The Fat Duck since its reopen. Every dish is incredible.
• The Latymer – When Michael Wignall was Head Chef.

What does the future hold for you and your brands?

This is a very exciting time, this is my very first experience a Chef Proprietor so I’m establishing a business with the hope it will be received well and give me a chance to widen my horizons, I really want to get this right, but who knows maybe internationally, one in a snow resort and one on a beach would make it a lifestyle, I’m always at work.