Jack Croft and Will Murray

Jack Croft and Will Murray

Jack Croft and Will Murray

Jack Croft and Will Murray struck up a friendship while working at Dinner by Heston and in 2019 launched their own restaurant concept called Fallow. Together they now cook some of London’s most exciting, sustainability-focused food.

The path to working in a professional kitchen is not clearly defined, and no two chefs seem to share the same story. Whereas some might make it their mission from childhood to run a restaurant of their own one day, others simply fall into the industry by chance. Jack Croft and Will Murray may have both come to cooking in slightly different ways but they now jointly lead the kitchen at London’s ultra-popular and hyper-sustainable Fallow, where they craft the restaurant’s carefully thought-out menu as a pair.

For Jack, cooking was always in his blood; growing up in the Cotswolds, he was able to get a feel for the buzz of a kitchen from a young age, thanks to his dad being a chef. ‘When I was about thirteen, I’d go and help out my dad for pocket money,’ he explains, ‘and then when I left school at sixteen, I immediately did an apprenticeship with him at Calcot Manor and got to do everything from outside catering to pastry. It meant that my learning curve was very accelerated.’ Going on to spend five years at the hotel restaurant, Jack also simultaneously undertook various catering qualifications, meaning that by the time he’d moved to London in 2014, he had experience beyond his years.

Meanwhile Will, who grew up in Bolton, followed a rather different culinary path, ‘I didn’t have a huge amount of stimulus in a food sense growing up,’ he says, ‘I’d watch loads of Saturday Kitchen and all of Great British Menu, and then I also read a lot of cookbooks which meant I started cooking at a pretty young age.’ Initially, however, he didn’t decide to pursue a career in the kitchen, instead heading to Birmingham University to study classics. Despite enjoying his degree, after struggling to find a job after university, Will started working in an Italian restaurant in Sheffield and soon became hooked, going on to spend time at a local gastropub as well as at the Peak Edge Hotel, where he honed his pastry skills.

It was when Will moved to London to work at Dinner by Heston, though, that he first met Jack, who by that point had already been working at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant for two years. ‘I remember finding things very hard at the start at Dinner,’ says Jack, ‘but it was definitely an eye opener. In the first six months I was there, there was point where I was just cutting bread all morning but it’s through those monotonous skills that you learn about achieving perfection.’ While Jack worked his way up the ranks to junior sous chef, Will came in as a commis chef and also soon began to excel in the fine dining setting, going on to do stages at restaurants including The Clove Club and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay during his holidays.

Will and Jack’s time at Dinner proved incredibly important for them both (‘it’s made us the chefs we are today’), but by 2019 they were both eager to start something of their own and decided to enter the Brixton Cookery Competition with a concept that would eventually become Fallow. After coming runners up in an impressive field, the boys realised that they were onto something and began to do Fallow residencies at the likes of Carousel and Crispin, before settling temporarily at 10 Heddon Street in 2020. Having initially opted to serve a relatively refined tasting menu, Will and Jack were forced to rethink just a few weeks after opening thanks to the national lockdown. 

‘The initial concept for Fallow was a bit more high-end at first,’ explains Will, ‘but the lockdown really moulded us. We started doing takeaways to stay afloat and began doing some more accessible stuff like burgers and corn ribs. The people who sustained us through the lockdown were mainly builders and contractors and when we eventually reopened, we didn’t want to turn our backs on these customers, so we just thought we’d start to include these more accessible dishes. We liked the idea that someone could come in a few times a week and try something different, and that’s how this larger, more casual menu came about. Covid massively defined us as a business.’

Following its reopening post-lockdown, Fallow fast became a hit, with tables at the Heddon Street site booking up weeks in advance and Will and Jack’s cooking being recognised with a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide. The pair of dynamic chefs quickly outgrew the space and in late 2021 moved Fallow to a much larger, permanent site in St James. There they now serve an even broader menu of both accessible and slightly more daring dishes, while continuing to win plaudits for their bold cookery. 

At the heart of Will and Jack’s ethos in the kitchen at Fallow however, is their commitment to sustainability, championing less commonly used parts of both animals and vegetables on their menu, and even trying to use waste and by-products as much as possible. ‘It was never really intended to be a theme or anything,’ says Jack, ‘we just thrive off trying to use ingredients that no one else can, to the point where we’ll sometimes get laughed at by suppliers. I just love the idea of taking these high-end recipes and techniques, which we know work, and then applying them to things that are essentially waste products like lamb’s tongue and whey.’

This zero-waste approach has led to a number of unusual signature dishes appearing on the menu at Fallow, most notably their cod’s head with sriracha butter – a dish which grew from a conversation with their fish supplier. ‘We literally just asked them what was going in the bin that day,’ Will explains, ‘they gave us some cods’ heads, so we put them on the menu and the feedback was amazing. A few years on, we’re now taking the lion’s share of the North Sea cods’ heads coming into Billingsgate fish market.’

It's this willingness to get the most out of unlikely ingredients, combined with their years of experience working in high-end kitchens that has led to such success for Will and Jack. At Fallow, they continue to demonstrate that you don’t always need to use the most glamourous ingredients to create accessible dishes that taste amazing, and that’s what makes them such forward-thinking chefs.