Tom Brown


Tom Brown

Making a name for himself as head chef of Outlaw’s at The Capital and on Great British Menu 2017, Tom Brown is a bright young talent now in charge of his own Michelin-starred restaurant – Cornerstone – in Hackney Wick.

Cornwall has produced some of the best chefs cooking in Britain today. It’s easy to see why – with access to some truly incredible produce (particularly seafood and dairy), the finest catering colleges and multiple Michelin-starred restaurants, it’s rightfully earned its title as one of Europe’s top foodie destinations. One of the latest chefs to come out of the county and contribute to the UK’s thriving food scene is Tom Brown. A protégé of acclaimed Cornish chef Nathan Outlaw, he’s now known for incredible cooking in his own right, rising through the ranks of some incredible institutions. But, as with all chefs, the road to Michelin stardom started at the bottom of the culinary pecking order.

‘I got into cooking by accident,’ he explains. ‘I was working up the road at my local pub in Cornwall as a kitchen porter, and had fallen out of love with being in a classroom at college. I started helping out making pizzas and doing a bit of prep, and got hooked. I loved the creativity, the sense of pride and the immediate gratification that comes from cooking. Seeing the produce come in, I started to become more interested in the sourcing side of things and the food itself. I liked finding ingredients that were absolutely perfect and required little to no cooking.’

By this point Tom had finished his apprenticeship and was eager to take the next step in his career, but wasn’t sure where to start working locally. Cornwall had the produce, but Tom wanted to get some experience in a nationally recognised kitchen. ‘I was quite cut off from the rest of the cooking world down in Cornwall,’ he says, ‘so I just wrote to every TV chef I could think of. It was 2008 and Bryn Williams was on Great British Menu – he called me himself and invited me to go and do a stage in his restaurant. I remember him getting in whole fish, entire salt marsh lambs, things like that; I’d never seen that before. It made me realise I wanted more than a kitchen that churned out pub food, and after a stint working in places around Falmouth I ended up working with Paul Ripley at Rick Stein’s restaurant.’

With experience in the kitchens of Rick Stein’s Seafood Bar and the St Kew Inn, Tom developed a natural affinity for cooking fish and became even more interested in the sourcing side of things. ‘I was quite new to the industry back then, but it felt like using local produce and really caring about the ingredients was a huge thing that was only just getting the attention it deserved,’ he says. ‘When I was at the St Kew Inn with Paul the scallops were hand-dived from very close by, guys were catching fish in Padstow and bringing it over and there were farms literally at the end of the road which we’d work with. I’d never seen that before so it was a new thing for me at least, but now it’s very much the done thing and almost sacrilege not to – which is good for everyone involved.’

In 2012, Tom made the most important jump in his career ­– he joined Nathan as chef de partie at the St Enodoc Hotel, before eventually working his way up to head chef. It was with Nathan that Tom really came into his stride, not only learning everything there is to know about cooking fish and seafood, but also contributing his own ideas.

In 2016, Tom was appointed head chef of Nathan’s London outpost, Outlaw’s at The Capital. Entering a Michelin-starred kitchen in London is never easy, but Tom rose to the occasion and maintained the quality with ease. ‘I tried not to think about the star, as it just leads to too much worry,’ he says. ‘All you can do is the absolute best and what you know works. The recipes we prepared at The Capital were the same as in Nathan’s two-star restaurant in Cornwall and the produce was the same, but there was this responsibility to keep the culinary heritage of The Capital going. People like Eric Chavot, Tom Kerridge, Gary Rhodes and Brian Turner worked there previously, so sometimes I felt like I’d sneaked into an A-list party.’

Tom’s next big break came in 2017 when he appeared on Great British Menu, winning the South West heats to make it to the final. Surprisingly, it wasn’t his fish course that stood out but his dessert, proving that there was more to Tom’s cooking than seafood. Later on in that same year, Tom decided to set out on his own, leaving Outlaw’s at The Capital to open his own restaurant in Hackney Wick called Cornerstone, which opened to rapturous acclaim in April 2018. Tom's cooking at Cornerstone still focuses around fish and seafood, but the real foundation of his food is freshness and originality, and he applies that to meat and vegetarian dishes too. His potted shrimp crumpet with fennel and gherkin dish was arguably the UK's dish of the year in 2018, and dishes like lemon sole, oyster, smoked leeks and tarragon and cured monkfish, ginger and spring onion dressing, and yogurt ensured that tables at Cornerstone were hard to come by for the whole year. He was hotly tipped for a Michelin star, which was deservedly awarded to Cornerstone in 2021. Tom is undoubtedly one of the brightest young stars in the industry and we suspect despite his successes, he's only getting started.