Chef Q&A: Tom Bainbridge, The Tilbury
The owner and head chef of the Datchworth restaurant on sauces, seasoning, and always learning
Describe your style
Modern British with international influence.
How do you decide your menu?
I like to evolve my menu in line with seasonal produce and interesting ingredients. With regard to changing the menu I am quite impulsive, when I have an idea I like I want it on the menu. New dishes are always exciting.
Which Herts producers do you use?
We use Bridget B’s in Watton-at-Stone for all of our meat – the beef in particular is as good as you can get. We also use Dawliscious ice cream from Hertford Heath – we have worked with Claire since she started and she produces some great ice cream. Also the Cheese Plate in Buntingford where Toby always has the best selection of cheeses.
Which menu dish do you most enjoy preparing?
I love making sauces. A well balanced interesting sauce transforms a plate of food.
What ingredient is most important to your cooking?
Seasoning, be it something salty, sweet, sour or hot. Good seasoning is what makes food interesting.
Your best culinary idea?
Annoyingly, probably the first dish I came up with as a chef. It’s a starter of rabbit and carrot cake. I have spent the last three and a half years trying to top it!
Who did you train under and what did they teach you?
I am a self-taught cook, I started cooking professionally when I bought The Tilbury with my brother James nearly four years ago. I have always absorbed food knowledge, skills and techniques and played around with them. In the kitchen me and the team develop together and learn new tricks.
The next food trend?
More international cuisines. People are more interested in food from all around the world. It is fascinating learning about other food cultures and using them to inspire your own.
What’s in your fridge at home?
Cheese, cured meats and a bottle of white wine.
Favourite quick meal?
Fried chicken and beef burger – a great last minute pre-service meal.
Top three tips for amateur cooks?
Cook with confidence, experiment and season generously.
The Big Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal