A degree in politics and history is not the typical route into cheffing. Tomos Parry told us: ‘I still passed, but I knew cooking was what I wanted to do.’ Positions in Cardiff then London followed, where he secured a role at The River Café: ‘They had incredible produce and that got me excited – it was phenomenal!’ After that came a stage at Noma where he met James Knappett, going on to help him open Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs. But it was at Climpson’s Arch, a space under the railway in Hackney, that Tomos Parry was able to develop his skill with a wood-fire grill.
Dedicated to providing a platform for young chefs to show off their talents, this unusual location houses two huge wood-fired ovens and offers chefs the chance to come out of the isolated kitchen environment and, as the founder says, ‘get back to basics with food and fire’. Tomos Parry told us: ‘I’d been drawn to grilling for the past few years, but I didn’t have the opportunity to really go for it. That’s why I left Kitchen Table to go there, it just felt right. It’s got massive wood-fire grills and things you could never get away with in a restaurant. It’s a very weird place to work, but it allows you to grow and develop ideas. There’s not much pressure on you there, because people didn’t have expectations about what they were going to get, so you could play around with dishes. I think I was quite lucky. A lot of the dishes I cook today were developed there, just a bit more refined.’
‘I didn’t really think about if I was ready to do something myself. I just really wanted to do it, so I did it and then it worked and it was fine. I think it was just the rawness of it – it’s quite an exciting way of cooking I think. I like the simplicity of it. I like having restrictions in cooking, it helps creativity in a way. You can have all the cooking gadgets in the world, but what are you doing with them all? There’s no way you can master all of them. I also love the flavour of it and the way it reacts with produce, which is what it’s all about. The more you cook with it, the more you find ways to cook with the fire and the smoke.’