It’s this incredible dedication and interest in British cuisine that has helped shape Jeremy into the chef he is today. ‘I think British produce is becoming more and more regional,’ he says. ‘People are beginning to get back into crafts and are eager to work with their hands. Amongst all these artisan producers are wonderful growers which is making an incredible difference to the dishes on our menus.’
In 2012, after eighteen years at the Blueprint Café, Jeremy was offered a new head chef role at the iconic Quo Vadis hotel in Soho. It had just been bought by Same and Eddie Hart, the restaurateurs behind Barrafina. ‘Eddie and Sam wanted to turn Quo Vadis into a celebration of British produce, and when they approached me to become head chef I realised that you only get one chance to work in a building so grand and iconic,’ says Jeremy. ‘I couldn’t say no.
‘We went about taking everything off the walls, pared it all back, painted it white and waited to see what happened,’ he continues. ‘It was extraordinary – folk loved it and with John Broadley’s illustrations it all seemed incredibly, ridiculously right.’
Jeremy turned Quo Vadis into a must-visit restaurant, with everyone from foodies to celebrities wanting to experience the clean, simple, flavourful food that celebrated the seasons. Over the years he has developed close relationships with suppliers, meaning he has access to the very best produce. ‘Keeping an eye on your supply chain is a full-time job, so we tend to look to a very good greengrocer who knows where to get things like the best lemons from Sicily,’ he explains. ‘But closer to home it’s easier to talk to people – we know we want crabs from Dorset, smoked herring from the east coast and razor clams from Orkney. The fishermen are great and a focus on vegetables is the next huge revolution in cooking. Foraging is great but oh boy do you need to know your stuff, and I think if you’re going to charge a spectacular amount of money for a leaf on the plate you better make sure it’s brilliant.’
While the dishes Jeremy cooks change daily depending on the seasons, there are a few things on the menu he has become famous for. His smoked eel sandwich – a simple combination of smoked eel, horseradish, fried bread and pickled onions – is the sole reason many people book a table at Quo Vadis. The sizeable meals are also a big draw. ‘If we try and reduce our portions – which are suitable for trenchermen – then there’s nothing but revolt from our customers,’ says Jeremy. ‘So we just go generous, abundant, epic and let it fly!’
Jeremy appeared on Great British Menu in 2007 and hosted another programme with fellow chef Fergus Henderson about eating strange things. He has also appeared more recently as a judge on Great British Menu for the Welsh and Scottish contenders.
The style of Elizabeth David – a British cookery writer – is prevalent in all of Jeremy’s cooking, and she is one of his most profound influences.
Jeremy was shortlisted for a Glenfiddich food writing award in 2002 for his work in the Guardian.