I can only imagine how busy Jamie Thomas must be. He’s the executive chef of the Drink & Dine Group, which includes pubs like The Carrington, Forresters, The Norfolk and The Abercrombie. Jamie kindly offered some of his precious time to be part of shiitake seven.
In his own words:
I have been at the stoves for 22 years and have been lucky enough to work alongside some brilliant cooks like Fergus Henderson, Dan Evans, Rowley Leigh and Adam Robinson; guys who changed English food in the 90s forever.
I’m currently the executive chef of the Drink & Dine Group which includes The Carrington, The Norfolk, The Abercrombie and Forresters; all great, old and beaten-up pubs with heaps of character. I hope to bring my honest, simple and above all fun style of cooking to these pubs for as long as I can keep up with my two bosses (not the easiest task!).
What would you have as your last meal?
Tough one. I reckon it would have to be a roast -probably beef, Yorkshire puds and loadsa fresh horseradish cream and a beer. If that’s not available I’ll take a bacon sandwich on shitty white bread with HP sauce thanks.
Do you watch Masterchef or My Kitchen Rules? Would you ever hire someone from the show?
Not sure if many chefs do, do they? Maybe the ones that are on it and like to see themselves on TV. When I get home it’s usually past midnight and if the house is quiet, I’m more of a pint of red wine, a joint and an episode of Eastbound and Down kind-of guy. I rarely get time to switch off, when I do, it certainly wouldn’t involve Masterchef.
What do you love about cooking?
Just about everything really. The great produce, the prep, the heat and stress of a busy service. Also, the shouting, the fighting, the kissing and making up after the the sight of a gleaming kitchen at midnight, and knowing you’re all ready to start again in about eight hours.
What don’t you like about the industry?
Not so much I don’t like, just more the fact the sacrifices I ask of my team, day in, day out. Rarely do they get to do the normal stuff everyday people get to do. I sometimes go up to five days without spending any quality time with my nine-month-old son. It’s a hard slog and to be successful (unless you score well on Masterchef), you have to give it your all, all the time. If you slip up or have a bad service, the chances are you will get grilled by someone.
What is the dish you are most proud of creating?
I’m really happy with the stuffed squid at the Carrington; I’m more proud of the people who are willing to give blood sausage piped into a squid tube, than of myself for making it up!
I also must give a shout to my new dish at the Abercrombie which is deep fried lasagne…yeah yeah you all laugh but it’s actually very nice! Just like a croquette…well kind of.
What’s your favourite restaurant?
Just about anywhere I can sit back and relax and not have to think too much…I must be the world’s easiest guy to please. Give me Ryo’s noodles on a Monday when I’m off and a can of Coke, and you won’t hear from me for about the three minutes it takes to wolf it down.
Hongy’s tacos and dogs go alright too at El Loco after a monster service. I’m not really down with throwing money at fine dining to be honest; I like my food a bit simpler, a bit more street level.
Who do you look up to, as a chef?
All the boys above, plus anyone out there that busts their balls day in and day out to bring you guys good, honest and well-priced food. It’s a shit business; you seriously have to love it and if you love food as much as me, well then I love you :)