Scott Hallsworth

Scott Hallsworth

As head chef at the acclaimed Nobu for six years, Australian-born Scott Hallsworth has mastered the ins and outs of Japanese cuisine, which he now showcases in his fun, playful dishes. His modern style combined with the explosive smoky, umami flavours found in his food him one of London's most popular chefs.

Scott Hallsworth has worked in a lot of countries – he’s hopped around his native Australia, Canada, Switzerland, France, Dubai and Bahrain. But thankfully for foodies across the UK, England always appealed to him the most, which is where he now serves up his hip, forward-thinking Asian cuisine.

Born in 1975 in Collie, a small town in western Australia, Scott was part of a very music-focused family. His two brothers worked in the music industry, and he always dreamt of being a rock star. However, he decided to enter the restaurant business instead and completed an apprenticeship at a hotel restaurant in Bunbury, headed up by an ex-sous chef at Le Gavroche. After a brief stint living and working on an island in the Great Barrier Reef, he moved into a sous chef role in Toronto. ‘While I was in Toronto a friend of mine told me about a hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland, where he was opening two restaurants,’ says Scott. ‘I chucked in my job at Toronto and worked there across both the Mediterranean and Pan-Asian kitchens. I was the saucier, battling this big brigade of Germans and working one of the busiest, hardest jobs. It was an incredible place.’

Scott eventually returned to Australia before heading out with a friend to Chamonix, France, to become a partner at another Pan-Asian restaurant. ‘We opened this rocking place, but when the summertime came and after we got sick of mountain biking and hurting ourselves on the hills, I decided to go to London and get more experience,’ explains Scott. ‘I did a trial shift at Nobu and thought ‘I can’t do this – I can’t cook for 500 people a night’! But even though I thought I’d screwed up they asked me to start work on the Monday. I had to learn quickly, but I progressed into more senior roles pretty fast and eventually became head chef.’

Nobu was where Scott learnt how to cook Japanese food at the highest level, and he spent six years at the helm of the Michelin-starred restaurant, even helping open a new branch in Melbourne. However, he grew tired of creating recipes for the menus without making a name for himself, and decided to leave to set up his own venture. ‘After a stint in Dubai I came back to the UK to work on something called Wabi in Sussex, but it was just a disaster situation,’ he says. ‘The guys backing it were from the budget airline industry and had no clue, so when things turned bad and the money ran out they started to turn on you.

‘I’d been thinking about the concept for Kurobuta for years and I wanted to capture the excitement that was Nobu back in the day but make it a bit more accessible,’ continues Scott. ‘There were plenty of Japanese restaurants at the top end, and plenty at the low end like Yo! Sushi, but no one was trying anything in the middle. We didn’t enter the market all singing and dancing – we wanted to be a bit more down to earth like the Japanese izakayas Kurobuta is based on.’ These izakayas – bars which serve a wide variety of Japanese dishes – are what inspires Scott’s restaurants and menus.

Making Kurobuta a reality was much harder than Scott originally thought. Funding fell through for his initial site after he had announced its opening, so there was already hype surrounding a restaurant that didn’t exist. ‘We didn’t want to lose the momentum, so we decided to scrape everything we had together and open a pop-up to make some money,’ explains Scott. ‘After all, everyone else seemed to be doing it! Our agent found a venue on the King’s Road in Chelsea and we thought it would never work. But we fell in love with the place when we saw it; dingy, shabby and with a tiny kitchen. We worked twenty-four hours a day until it worked, and by the second week of opening we were making a profit. It all blew up overnight and went crazy – we only had thirty-eight seats but were doing something like 110 covers a night. It was tough, but the sense of pride that came out of my guys after we made it happen was unbelievable.’

Kurobuta soon became the most talked about pop-up in west London (if not the entire city), and Scott found a new, permanent venue to move his restaurant to. Since then, he opened another Kurobuta in Marble Arch, had a two-year residency on the Fifth Floor at Harvey Nichols and a restaurant in Bodrum, Turkey called Kurochan. ‘We also opened Kurobuta Canteen in Soho in 2016, which is a bit more accessible price-wise,' he says. 'It’s all happened very fast in a short period of time, but it all comes down to hard work and having a good idea.’

In 2017, Scott sold all of his Kurobuta restaurants and opened up Freak Scene, a three-month pan-Asian pop-up in Farringdon. It proved a huge hit, and became a fixture in London's Soho for a year. After closing in 2020, Freak Scene reopened in 2023 at a brand new site in Parsons Green, which is co-owned by Hallsworth and comedian Adam Hills.