Ben Tish


Ben Tish

Chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Ben Tish has a stellar track record for creating dishes that, quite simply, everyone wants to eat. After years of channelling his love of Mediterranean food he's now chef director across Cubitt House's various pubs and restaurants, proving just how versatile his talents are.

London certainly isn’t short of Italian restaurants. It’s arguably the UK’s favourite cuisine, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t get excited about the idea of a wood-fired pizza or bowl of fresh pasta. But there’s so much more to regional Italian cooking – something chef Ben Tish proves at his beautiful Sicilian-inspired restaurant Norma.

Growing up in Skegness, Ben’s parents were very much into food and cooking, but he never really thought about becoming a chef. After his A levels he knew he wanted to move to London but didn’t want to go to university. ‘A few of my friends had moved to London and one of them was a chef,’ he explains. ‘He convinced me to join catering college before moving down there, so I signed up and started to learn how to cook.’

After a few months, an incredible opportunity arose – Jason Atherton opened a small hotel restaurant in Skegness, and Ben started working there as part of his college course. ‘The food was great, but it was completely wrong for Skegness – which is probably why it only lasted a few months! – but I learnt a lot and Jason became my friend and mentor. He got me my first job in London at The Ritz, where I spent two years learning all the classical skills. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty unpleasant: bad money, long hours and very competitive. But I stuck it out until Jason moved back to London to work as a senior sous chef at a restaurant called Coast.’

Ben got a job as a commis chef at Coast, where he’d spend another two years improving his skills and learning the ropes. ‘I loved it there – the working culture was great,’ he says. ‘Everyone who was in that brigade I’m still mates with to this day.’

After Coast, Ben worked at L’Oranger under Marcus Wareing before moving on to work with Steve Terry and Jason once again at One Lawn Terrace. After that, he went to Al Duca, a River Café-style Italian restaurant, which is where he got his first taste of Mediterranean cooking. Next came a three-year stint in the West Highlands at a restaurant in the Crinan Hotel. ‘It was my first head chef role and we got lots of good reviews, which was great,’ says Ben. ‘It was quite a challenging environment to work in, however – in summer you’d be rushed off your feet, but in winter there might be nobody staying in the hotel at all.’

On returning to London, Ben helped out a few friends at a recently opened restaurant called Salt Yard after the chef walked out. He ended up staying there for the next thirteen years, becoming a partner and investor in the business and growing the group to open other restaurants such as Dehesa, Opera Tavern and Ember Yard. ‘It was a great, formative time of my life, where I learnt about the business side of things as well as cooking,’ he says. ‘It’s where I really got to grips with Mediterranean cooking – not just Italian but Spanish as well.’

After thirteen years helping to grow Salt Yard into one of London’s most acclaimed restaurant groups, Ben took a year out to plan his next move. He wanted to strike out on his own and open a restaurant with his wife, focusing on the Italian and Mediterranean food he’d fallen in love with. After a site in Soho Square fell through – despite Ben putting a lot of money into the concept and design – he and his wife knew they couldn’t go through the process again on their own, so when Stuart Procter, the CEO of The Stafford Hotel, approached Ben and asked if he’d consider working with him on the hotel’s restaurant The Game Bird, Ben accepted.

‘They asked me to be the culinary director of the hotel, overseeing the already great executive chef there, and then they’d help me open my own restaurant, as the concept and design had already been done,’ says Ben. ‘We decided to go for it, and a year after starting at The Stafford, we opened Norma.’

Norma is the result of Ben’s years of experience in kitchens and extensive travels throughout Italy and the Mediterranean. It’s his style of cooking through and through – and since opening in 2019 it’s had heaps of critical acclaim. ‘Mediterranean and Italian food has been a massive part of my career, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy, particularly in the south and on Sicily,’ says Ben. ‘There are a lot of Italian restaurants in London but I think Norma has a different angle. It’s got a high-end feel to it, which I like, but everything is toned down and made more relaxed with a Mediterranean feel. The food is rustic, but there’s a refinement to it.'

In 2021 Ben moved on from both The Stafford and Norma to become chef director at Cubitt House, which owns a range of different pubs and restaurants across London. His job is to ensure every one of these sites has its own distinct and exciting menu – looking at his career so far, we know he's the perfect man for the job.