Here's cooking with you… Tom Kirby from The County Hotel in Chelmsford
PUBLISHED: 10:58 29 July 2014 | UPDATED: 10:58 29 July 2014
Tom Kirby, head chef at The County Hotel in Chelmsford, talks about his run-in with a rather angry celebrity chef, his kitchen rules at home and why you should never trust him with birthday cake
Where do you work?
I am the head chef at The County Hotel in Chelmsford.
What is your earliest food memory?
It has to be my nan’s homemade, hand-cut chips.
What was your first ever job and where was it?
At the age of 14 I worked as a kitchen porter in Surrey at a country pub called the Cricketers in Cobham.
What was it about food which excited you enough to make a career out of it?
I fell into cooking really by chance and when I took my first commis chef position it was for an income, but very quickly it became a passion due to the intensity of the environment. I enjoyed the variety of work as one day I could be working in the fine dining restaurant, the next day preparing for a wedding for 150 guests or another day perhaps a BBQ in the private gardens. I just loved the new challenge every day.
Who would you love to cook for and why?
I think it would have to be for Michelin starred chef Marcus Wareing as I would appreciate any feedback or advice that he might give me.
Which is your favourite dish to prepare?
That’s a tough one, but I would have to say a venison Wellington. There is nothing more satisfying than carving the pastry to find a beautifully cooked piece of meat in the layers beneath.
Who was your inspiration to take up cooking and how do they affect what you do now?
My first head chef at the Burhill Golf Course near Walton on Thames really gave me the tools and confidence to move forward in my career and without him I would have never have applied for my first position in London at the Savoy Hotel. Working there ultimately gave me the foundation to be where I am today.
Any celebrity moments you can share with us?
I have been very fortunate in my career to work with some amazing chefs and cook for numerous celebrities, from the Blair family on mother’s day to Sir Paul McCartney, and also for the closing ceremony of Wimbledon. But the one moment that sticks out the most has to be when I was working in a highly pressured restaurant in central London for a very well known chef. Unfortunately I didn’t realise he was standing behind me while I was plating up and I turned around and knocked straight into him. He was so cross he pushed me across the kitchen and called me a baby rhinoceros.
Tell us a bit about you at home — where do you originally come from and how did you end up here?
I am originally from Hersham in Surrey, but not long into my career I moved to central London to pursue a future in catering. In pursuit of my first head chef position, I decided to move back a little closer to home and found myself in Chelmsford.
At home — who lives there and who cooks most of the time?
I live with my girlfriend, Justyna, and it has to be said she is a very good cook so we take it in turns. Generally though only one of us is allowed in the kitchen at any one time as I get reminded regularly that I’m not at work and she is not my commis chef or kitchen porter.
Any kitchen disasters you can tell us about?
I once was given a birthday cake by a member of the front of house team. The cake had a lovely picture on the top of the lady whose birthday it was. I took the cake and cut it up and arranged it nicely on a platter. Half an hour later the restaurant manager came in asking for the cake, it was only when I gave him the platter with the slices of cake that he told me the cake hadn’t been presented to the lady whose birthday it was as she had only just arrived — oh dear!