Flash-grilled: Joe Laker

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Joe Laker chef patron of Counter 71 in London’s Shoreditch on his first industry job and tasting menus

Related tags Joe Laker Counter 71 Fenn Fine dining London Restaurant Chef

The chef patron of Counter 71 in London’s Shoreditch on his first industry job, tasting menus, and why he couldn't live without a Pacojet.

What was your first industry job?
I’ve worked in the industry since I was about 16 years old, starting as a food runner at events whilst still studying. My first job in a kitchen was at a Chinese restaurant in Leeds.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
Some kind of trade, probably a builder.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
I was lucky enough to get to spend a few months at Elystan Street with Phil Howard whilst I was between jobs. He still spends all day in his kitchens after all these years and has a lot of time to give to everybody, I really admire that.

What’s your pet hate in the kitchen?
Any form of bullying or aggression in kitchens. You see it so often, chefs with huge egos belittle people and enjoy it.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
Someone once said: "This beef tartare tastes like frazzles."

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Seasonal, British, produce-led cooking.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
When I was at Anglo a customer complained about the portion sizes and said they had to go next door to get a burrito on the way home.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Get your head down and soak up all the knowledge people have to offer. Ask a lot of the right questions and try to learn something new everyday. The first three months in a kitchen is always the toughest, at times you’ll feel completely out of your depth, but something just clicks after three months and it’s one of the most rewarding feelings.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
A Pacojet - we use it for so much in the kitchen, ice creams, sorbets, butters etc. It’s a really versatile reliable bit of equipment.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
A roast from The Prince in Stoke Newington

À la carte or tasting menu?
Always tasting menu. We have a tasting menu only format at counter 71 and it allows for maximum control and creativity.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
Sola or A Wong.

What’s your favourite fast food joint?
It would have to be Coqfighter.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
The sponge cake and fennel seed ice cream from The Sea, The Sea - best dessert I’ve ever had.

MasterChef​ or Great British Menu​?
Great British Menu​.

What’s the most overrated food?
Foie gras.

You're a restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Loose chef trousers.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
Phil Lynott, David Grohl, and my sous chef Mikey Miles.

What’s your earliest food memory?
My mum would always make bananas and custard.

Twitter or Instagram?

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I can’t spill these sorts of stories…

What’s your tipple of choice?
I don’t actually drink, but I’m a big fan of kombucha.

What’s your favourite food and drink pairing?
Guinness and oysters is a forgotten classic.

What do you consider to be your signature dish?
The fennel seed custard tart at Counter 71 is quickly becoming a fan favourite.

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