Flash-grilled: Tom Cenci

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Image: David Robson
Image: David Robson

Related tags Tom Cenci Restaurant Nessa Maslow's Mortimer House Kitchen London Fine dining

The executive chef at restaurants including Nessa, Yasmin and Mortimer House Kitchen on top food telly, viral celeriac carbonara, and a stinker of a review from Toby Young.

What was your first industry job?
I worked at Cliveden Hotel as an apprentice chef, I picked a lot of spinach and peeled a lot of potatoes.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
Cooking still, to quote the great Luke Combs, ‘I'd still be doin' this if I wasn't doin' this’.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
The chefs I work with, day in and day out.

What’s your pet hate in the kitchen?
Lack of passion or enthusiasm. Find a job you love and not one you have to do.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
Not said but seen - a customer once bought a stuffed teddy bear to the restaurant and fed it honey. True story.

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Simple, different and original.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
Toby Young for the Evening Standard​ back in the day said: "One of the most unprepossessing spaces in London... my wife's endive, pear and blue cheese salad tasted like sick" Nice chap Toby.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Don’t climb the ladder too quickly; listen, learn and be patient. Success comes with experience.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
A spoon. Taste, taste, taste.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
My mum's spag bol. That, or the 30-course, four-hour tasting menu at Ynyshir in Powys, Wales.

À la carte or tasting menu?
Anything where I can share and try more food.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume. Perfection.

What’s your favourite fast food joint?
Chipotle. It's tasty, filling and a great hangover cure.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
The consommé and port course at The Clove Club. You drink an aged port then they add a perfectly seasoned game consommé to the glass. It's simple but perfect.

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
Top Chef​ beats them both. It's possibly the greatest show of all time.

What’s the most overrated food?
Cupcakes. Anything with a sponge-to-icing ratio less than 40/60, isn't worth thinking about.

You’re a restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Rudeness. Manner’s cost nothing.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
My family.

What’s your earliest food memory?
My mum’s spag bol.

Twitter or Instagram?
What’s Twitter?

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I cycle to work by bike, so my commute almost every day.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
If I had hair then it would be the football with my son - a beer, a burger and a lot of disappointment.

What’s your tipple of choice?
An Amaro, either Montenegro or Averna.

What’s your favourite food and drink pairing?
A bar of Cadbury’s dairy milk and a glass of oat milk.

What do you consider to be your signature dish?
The celeriac carbonara at Nessa has reached new heights and gone viral.

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