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Jun Tanaka

By the time Jun was twenty-seven, he was a seriously accomplished chef who had experienced some of the country’s toughest and most revered kitchens. He left Restaurant Marco Pierre White to take a job working with Daniel Boulud, but ended up not taking it because his girlfriend at the time didn’t want to move. Instead, he became junior sous at The Square under Phil Howard. ‘What I loved about Phil’s food was that you wanted to eat everything on the menu – there weren’t just two or three dishes that really stood out. That might sound obvious, but that’s a very hard thing to achieve. I loved working there.’

Despite his impeccable ability, Jun had yet to gain much experience actually running a kitchen, so he went back to The Capital after a year at The Square to become Eric Chavot’s sous chef. Here, he was part of the team that gained the restaurant two Michelin stars, and started to create his own dishes and take charge of the kitchen in Eric’s absence. This gave him the confidence to take his first head chef job, at a small neighbourhood restaurant called Chives, before becoming executive chef of Pearl at the Chancery Court Hotel in Holborn. After helping build it from the ground up, he stayed there for an impressive eight years, before finally deciding to start looking into opening his own restaurant at the end of 2012.

‘I’d always thought becoming an executive chef for a group of restaurants was where I wanted my career to end up, but in those final few years at Pearl I realised I wanted to create an idea from scratch that was completely mine without any interference from anyone else,’ he explains. ‘I gave myself a year to find a suitable site, but it ended up taking three!’

Jun’s determination to not compromise on the site paid off, however, as in 2015 The Ninth – named because it is the ninth restaurant he’s worked at – quickly became one of Fitzrovia’s most popular restaurants. Offering affordable small plates in a relaxed environment, it showcases Jun’s incredible classical background with flecks of Mediterranean flair.

‘I’d always worked in classical French kitchens because when I was starting out, all the top restaurants were French,’ he says. ‘The longer I cooked that style of food, the more I realised how complex and historically interesting it is. It’s also the best base for looking at other types of cooking from around the world – without it I don’t think you can really get to the heart of gastronomy. So I combined French classical cooking with Mediterranean food – which is what I like to eat at home – and put it in relaxed surroundings with a neighbourhood restaurant atmosphere.’

The Ninth was an instant hit, but the real boost to the business came when it received a Michelin star in 2016. ‘It was a genuine surprise – we were never aiming for one or thinking about it, so that made it even better,’ says Jun. ‘Without question winning it has been the highlight of my career, and it made a big difference to the restaurant and was a great reward for the team here.’

Despite the Michelin star and Jun’s background in classical, white tablecloth-style restaurants, The Ninth has an incredibly casual, laidback feel to it – although the food is crafted with expert precision and plate after plate comes out consistently excellent. For an affordable, delicious masterclass in classical technique and French-Mediterranean flavours, there isn’t a better restaurant in London to book a table at.

Three things you should know

In 2009, Jun launched a street catering van with Mark Jankel called Street Kitchen – one of the first high-end street food concepts in the UK.

Jun has made numerous TV appearances, including winning the final of the cooking competition Chopped Champions, using the $50,000 prize money to help set up The Ninth.

Jun also has his own cookbook, Simple to Sensational, which was published in 2009.