Flash-grilled: Yuma Hashemi

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Yuma Hashemi The Drunken Butler

Related tags Fine dining French cuisine Iranian food

Yuma Hashemi is the chef patron of The Drunken Butler, a Clerkenwell restaurant that combines French and Persian influences.

What was your first job?
I was a commis at the Michelin-starred Fischers Fritz in Berlin. It was an experience I will never forget and taught me so much so early on in my career.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?  
I quite like having a pizza after service. I like Voodoo Ray's and usually get there around 1am. It has cool music and great pizza. It helps me wind down.

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
Moulles frites at Bistrot Poulette in Bordeaux. It’s a great experience and a Sunday morning thing. You’d go early to this place in a market, you drink wine, eat food and hang out. 

What industry figure do you most admire, and why? 
There are so many. I really admire Alain Ducasse, Pierre Koffmann and Alain Passard. They are pioneers and everything we are doing now with our food is down to them.  

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
I’d do something creative, maybe a photographer travelling around the world.

What is your biggest regret?
They say you should never regret anything. There are times when I think maybe I should have taken that job in a three Michelin-starred restaurant in the south of France but, to be honest, things have worked out really well for me and I’m loving what we are doing here in London. I’ve moved to London and opened what I feel is a really special place. 

Pet hate in the kitchen?
When things are not straight and aligned. I’ve got an OCD where everything needs to be the same size and in order. You could call it being very organised but some of my staff often laugh at me when I walk around the restaurant and make sure that the tables are 100% in line with one another.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
"Can I touch your beard?" It actually happens quite regularly.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
To be honest, there are so many I couldn’t choose. I have spent a lot of time reading so many books, visiting so many restaurants to learn about techniques and ingredients. I’ve learnt from all of them. Each dish is the individual creation of a chef so I love all of them.

Describe your cooking style in three words
French with Persian influences (that’s four words. Sorry)

Most overrated food?​ 

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Drugs. It is a real issue in some kitchens and needs to be eradicated from our profession.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
I got into lots of trouble for my reaction to the last bad review I had so my lips are sealed.

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
My mum, because I don’t cook enough for her. She often travels so I don’t get to see her much. 

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Start small. Learn things gradually. Work hard, learn. Every day is a new day, so you need to start from scratch each morning.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
My knife.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
I like to keep it simple. In the winter I like salt-baking, and cooking thing slowly. In the summer it's all about the barbecue. 

What’s your earliest food memory? 
Causing trouble in the kitchen when my grandmother was cooking for guests. Once I blew up an oven, which didn’t go down too well.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. I actually apply this to so many things. Take a dish, for example. I will spend a lot of time sourcing the right supplier for the right ingredients or produce. I’ll then spend a long time trying to use it in a way that does it justice. It’s really important for me to have patience when preparing a new dish.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I had a bad car accident when I was in Berlin. I was 22 and it was pretty horrific. I was very fortunate.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
I do yoga as it really helps me relax. Meditation is a great way for me to wind down. Life is so busy so it's important to take time to reflect and relax.

Tipple of choice?​ 
A nice beaujolais. Something from Marcel Lapierre would be great.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
I’d definitely have some ‘Tahdig’. If you don’t know what this is you must google it (or come to the restaurant). It’s the crispy bit on top of Persian rice. I’ve seen grown men and women fight each other to have the last piece.

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