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A Kind of Love Story

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I see people coming in straight from work, often
they are stressed, maybe they are running a little late
and their partner or friends are sitting there waiting
for them.
Ten minutes later when they have been given their
eighth snack, I can see them unwinding, engaging
with the story, in the bubble.
I see everything; hear everything. Ask the boys.
It drives them crazy sometimes, because I never
miss anything that happens in the kitchen or the
dining room.
Im the conductor. My role is to bring the volume
and tone up or down in the kitchen or on the floor
as I think necessary. If theres not enough energy or
people arent focused enough, its unlucky for the
next guy to make a mistake, because theyll get a
bollocking, which sends a message to everyone. I
hate that we can have a bad service just because
people arent switched on from kick-off, then all of a
sudden the kitchen is behind and everyone is on the
back foot.
But equally, if I need to turn things down, if the
pressure is getting too intense, Ill go off-piste and
make them laugh or go to the downstairs kitchen
and talk about football with the boys for five minutes.
When Story was being built the one thing I was sure

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of was that I wanted the main kitchen to be on the

same floor as the dining room comforting, as if
you were at home and I wanted the guests to be
able to see in, and the chefs to see out.
It was one of the first business battles I had to
win . . . But Tom, it means losing twenty seats . . .
Otherwise, a plate of food arrives at your table, and
you might think, Oh, that looks pretty, and eat
and enjoy it, but you make no connection with the
people who have produced it.
At my most romantic Id like to think that when
guests sit down at the table its a bit like going to
the cinema and watching the trailers: half a dozen
movies with all the action just glimpsed, so you
think, I really want to see that! Thats what you
get through the glass box of the kitchen: a flash of
a flame from the Green Egg barbecue, a glimpse of
action and banter.
Then when the food starts to arrive I want people
to engage with us, be entertained, involved. Thats
where the knowledge that the waiters bring to the
table comes in. If you understand something, I
believe you will enjoy it more. Of course food is subjective, and we know we cant please everyone; not
everyone will like everything or understand what we
are trying to do. Some dishes always divide opinion.
But if we can touch peoples emotions, and spark
a conversation, get a debate going, thats exciting.
Like watching a challenging film. Take American
Beauty you might think, I dont really get it, but
then you talk about it with friends and if you do get
it, you think, What a great movie.
Yes, it is a challenge for the team sometimes, when
we are constantly on show. Flare-ups happen, especially if a momentary lack of focus means something,
however small, goes wrong. Maybe the relish for
the candle doesnt get sent out with the bread.

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Insignificant? Yes, in reality. But in the pursuit of

perfection nothing is insignificant.
For sure, it changes the way the chefs work, but
in a good way. You have to be neater, cleaner, try
not to swear so much, but to be honest, you get so
immersed in what you are doing at times, you forget
that there are forty people out there who might be
watching and listening.
And its a two-way thing: it is so much more rewarding as a chef if you can see the guests eating your
Tom Aikens was one of the hottest restaurants in
town, but downstairs in the kitchen we never saw a
guests reaction, or really felt the fruits of our work.
At Per Se, the kitchen was separate, and couldnt be
seen from the dining room. Yes, you will always get
feedback from the floor staff, but it cant match the
feeling when someone comes to the entrance of the
kitchen at Story and says, That was one of the best
meals I have eaten in my life. Thank you, everyone.
Those moments are priceless. Trust me, there is no
better reward.


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You are on your feet for long hours

and you have to stay focused, so its
often the camaraderie and banter
and humour that gets you through.
Angelo and Frank particularly like
to throw themselves under the bus
and bait Chef. The funniest was
when Tom went over to sit down
with some friends who were eating
in the restaurant, and Frank got us
to send him over a glass of
champagne on the house he
turned around to see Frank in the
kitchen raising his own glass to him.
Of course he went ballistic.

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A lot of love, nostalgia and playfulness goes into the
rabbit sandwich snack but I never thought it would
take off the way it has, or that I would have GQ
magazine listing it one of the hottest things to eat
in London.
I used to go rabbiting with my dad and his best friend
who kept ferrets I remember a white one especially.
Sometimes when they caught the rabbits they would
still be alive, so we had to neck them, then the guts
had to be taken out straight away, while they were
still warm, and as kids we would be given them to
hold: it was a bit of a rite of initiation.
Dad would bring the rabbits home and make stew
for everyone: the rabbit went in the pot with loads of
vegetables and some bouillon, and then we would eat
it with crusty bread. It was the only thing he really
cooked, but he loved it, and so did we.
The rabbit for the sandwich is a classic confit that
reminds me of dads stew, starting with lots of
diced onion sweated blonde to give a base layer of
flavour. Its shredded as for rillettes and shaped into
fish fingers fish fingers, sandwiches: childhood
associations then they are glazed with a tarragon
emulsion, made with Minus 8 vinegar, oil and reduced chicken glaze.
In an emulsion there needs to be a protein to hold
together an oil and a liquid. Usually it is an egg, as

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in a mayonnaise or a sabayon, but I didnt want that

egginess that you can sometimes taste instead there
is enough protein in the chicken glaze, and it keeps
the flavour intense.
Rabbits always eat carrots in cartoons. So we lay
three slices of red, yellow and orange heritage carrots
on top that have been lightly pickled with bergamot,
just for a week, to flavour, not preserve them, and to
lend acidity to the snack.

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First published in Great Britain in 2016

by Orion Publishing Group Ltd
Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DZ
An Hachette UK Company
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Text Tom Sellers 2016
Design and layout Orion Publishing Group Ltd 2016
Quote on pages 205 by kind permission of Vince Lombardi
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any
form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of both
the copyright owner and the above publisher.
The right of Tom Sellers to be identified as the author of this
work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the
British Library.
ISBN: 978-0-297-87188-0

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Photography: Jay Brooks
Printed and bound in China
The Orion Publishing Groups policy is to use papers that
are natural, renewable and recyclable products and made
from wood grown in sustainable forests. The logging and
manufacturing processes are expected to conform to the
environmental regulations of the country of origin.

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