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If you can't stand the heat...

Get out of the kitchen and closer to the fire. And that’s just what top chef Tom Kerridge has done, as Rupert Bates discovers

 Rupert Bates   Summer 2020

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Hot coals to Newcastle or Marlow, a busman’s holiday – let’s not worry about idioms. Suffice it to say, Tom Kerridge is happy getting out of the kitchen and onto the barbecue.

It was good to catch the Michelin Star chef smiling in a Zoom call to his home. The usually jovial Kerridge has quite rightly been fuming about ‘no shows’, where restaurants, already on their knees or out of business in the wake of lockdown, on re-opening had to cope with the selfishness of diners, who’d booked tables, simply not turning up.

Kerridge is a busy man and I had barely had time to place my order when the

PR cried ‘service!’ This was a fast-food, flash-fried burger of an interview, rather than low and slow, shooting the barbecue breeze over several hours as a brisket gently smoked.

Of course, in a normal world I would have tried to negotiate holding the interview in say a two Michelin-starred pub in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, at around, I don’t know, lunchtime? Instead it was a quick-fire video exercise in trying to see what books Kerridge had on his shelves or what knives he used in the home kitchen.

The patron of the aforementioned multi-garlanded pub The Hand and Flowers, not to mention The Coach and The Butcher’s Tap also in Marlow, as well as Kerridge’s Bar and Grill at London’s Corinthia hotel, is now showcasing his outdoor cooking skills in a new series on the Food Network, called Tom Kerridge Barbecues, doing exactly what it says on the grill.

“It is good to get out of the commercial kitchen and give yourself a lot more freedom on the barbecue, cooking outside on the hot coals. It is really immersive,” says Kerridge.

“Add that social element, with food and friendship round the fire. As an occasion it runs so much deeper. Food is about how people and produce connect.”

He sees the barbecue gaining a stronger hold on our cooking culture. With the UK defined by its seasons, as opposed to countries with longer, warmer climates, it has traditionally been a summer sport.

“That is definitely changing and barbecue in this country has an exciting future, growing all the time and more and more inventive.”

Kerridge loves the charred flavours of the grill, but also the journey of the produce from farmer to butcher to cook to table, with provenance and animal welfare paramount.

 

 

Fruit and vegetables are also made for the barbecue, says Kerridge – smoky flavours, bittersweet tastes and caramelisation all in the mix.

“There are fewer greater delights for a chef than cooking outside,” says Kerridge and his TV series features both BBQ classics and dishes that will surprise and inspire.

Our time is nearly up but not before pivoting to the world of sculpture and his wife, Beth Cullen-Kerridge, whose works include the Dhow Sail, the 16ft marble sculpture in front of the Dubai Opera. Community art of any scale helps shape lives and create reflective outdoor spaces. There’s a barbecue metaphor there somewhere.

 


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