‘My mate Mark was homeless and I was probably on the verge of losing my house,’ Scott Hallsworth tells me amongst the busy waiters and workmen around us. We’re on the Fifth Floor of Harvey Nichols where he’s about to open the third instalment of his Kurobuta restaurant concept. It seems like the combination of a great idea, buckets of elbow grease and the fear of not having a roof over your head is a recipe for success – Scott is now known for introducing the UK to fun, fast and fashionable Japanese food against a punk rock backdrop.
Growing up in Australia meant Scott experienced the first imported food from Asia when he was still doing his apprenticeship twenty-five years ago. ‘I remember Dave, a senior apprentice came into the kitchen and asked me to smell these green leaves,’ he recalls. ‘I asked what it was and he said ‘coriander, I think it’s rotten or something’. We had no idea what it was as we’d never seen it before! But all these new ingredients started flooding in and it affected me as a chef for sure.’
Scott left Australia to work in Canada, Switzerland and France before arriving in London, wanting to build on his experience. He heard there was a job going at Nobu and did a trial shift. ‘It was the first time in my life that I thought I couldn’t do something,’ he says. ‘I can’t cook for 500 people a night! I was on the sauté section, which is one of the hardest positions in the kitchen. I thought I’d screwed it up but they asked me to come back. I learnt quickly and eventually worked my way up to head chef.’
This is certainly where Scott picked up his knack for Japanese cooking, and he stayed for seven years, even helping to open a Nobu in Melbourne. But he grew tired of creating recipes for the restaurant empire and wanted to be known for his cooking. After a stint working in Dubai, he came back to the UK to start out on his own. A few disasters involving shady investors and broken promises later, Scott started to put together the plan for Kurobuta.