You might recognise him from his TV appearances on Great British Menu, or MasterChef after this year’s finalists cooked with him, but Tommy Banks is fast becoming a big name in the food world. He became the youngest chef to be awarded a Michelin star at the age of 24 and his Yorkshire pub, The Black Swan, was named the ‘best in the world’ by TripAdvisor reviewers last year.
Now he’s about to open a second restaurant in York and has just released his cookbook, Roots.
While we know he champions homegrown British produce (a lot of the ingredients on his restaurant menu are grown on his family’s farm right on the doorstep) and is a big fan of foraging and old-fashioned preserving techniques, we wanted to quiz him on the really important stuff.
Your death row meal would be… Lemon tart is my favourite dessert, but maybe a steak – go out on a high!
The thing you still can’t make is… There are two things that I regularly fail to do well at home, my stir-frys just aren’t as good as Charlotte’s [his girlfriend]. Mine always go a bit soggy, but she’s good at them. And shakshouka, when I bake it in the oven – I haven’t got a grill, maybe you need a grill – the eggs always go hard on top. I can never get the yokes runny and the whites to set. We keep having that on a Sunday morning for our breakfast and I keep failing on the egg front.
If you get hungry late at night, the snack you’ll reach for is… Cheese. Something soft and smelly, like brie. I can eat so much of it. I’m a sucker for charcuterie, so if I have salami and brie, I’ll slice it and roll it up like a little cigar. I’ll come in from a night and before I know it, I’ll have eaten a whole packet of salami and a whole piece of cheese, and I’ll go to bed thinking, ‘That was so unhealthy’.
Your favourite store cupboard essential has to be… Marmite. It’s delicious on toast but the best thing is Marmite butter, what we call ‘[mise] en place’ in the chef world – pre-made so you can just lap it on. Because it’s rich and salty, I quite like adding it to gravy or sauces, with a bit of Lea & Perrins, too.
The kitchen utensil you can’t live without is… I like big spoons. A really big serving spoon. But they’re never in kitchens, I go somewhere to cook and I grab a spoon but I want something bigger. I’m going to start carrying a big spoon with me everywhere I go.
Your signature dish is… I always avoided having a signature dish, because I thought it would mean that you don’t progress, but the [crapaudine] beetroot dish – on the menu at The Black Swan – because of the self-sufficient angle, has become my signature dish. [Tommy preserves the beetroot by burying it in soil, a traditional process called clamping, so it doesn’t need refrigeration].
Preferably your eggs would be… I love scrambled eggs, but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a poached egg when you cut it open and it goes everywhere. So probably running poached eggs.
Your favourite childhood dinner was always… Sausage and mash. That’s still a favourite. My mum’s a pretty good cook, she did a lot of Delia Smith recipes – and they’re so tasty! She was very good at baking, she used to make delicious chocolate brownies when we were kids. The only embarrassing thing was, all the kids at school had cheese strings, and I wanted cheese strings but she wouldn’t let me, because it’s processed cheese. So, I used to get sent to school with a stick of medium mature cheddar. In hindsight, I’d probably do the same thing, but at the time it was devastating. It wasn’t good for my cred.
For dinner last night you ate… I was cooking at the Typing Room, a restaurant in Bethnal Green, [London] for a pop-up dinner. I was cooking most of the night but we were doing this really cool turbot dish – turbot on the bone with Yorkshire rhubarb, and we had a little bit left over at the end of the night. We roasted off the turbot and the chef made this most amazing bread, so we basically had fish and bread.
Your takeout of choice is… Indian, I suppose – chicken tikka rogan josh. I can’t do really spicy Indian food though.
The ultimate hangover cure has to be… Barocca-zade. Take one or two Baroccas and put them into a Lucozade Sport. It does the trick.
And you really can’t stomach… I just don’t like avocados. Everybody loves avocados, it’s so fashionable, and Instagram may as well just be called avocado-gram on a Saturday and Sunday. I don’t like them – they’re slimy, I don’t really like the texture. I feel really weird, like I’m missing out on something!
Roots by Tommy Banks is published by Seven Dials, priced £25. Available now.
- Press Association