Adam Rawson – Head Chef – Global Traveller

You’d be forgiven for expecting big things from Adam Rawson. He has an impressive resume, having worked in London with Gordon Ramsey at Claridges, followed by Eastside Inn with Bjorn van der Horst, Hibiscus with Claude Bosi and a number of years at Viajante with Nuno Mendes. A stint as head chef at Lucky Chip, Licky Chops at Climpsons Arch was next, after which he was head chef at White Rabbit in Dalston.
2015 was a big year for him. He won huge praise as head chef of Marylebone’s top Peruvian restaurant Pachamama, and nabbed the highly-coveted YBF Chef of 2015 award. His winning dishes at the 2015 British Foodie Awards included shavings of celeriac rendered in Galician beef fat and seabass ceviche bathed in nitro-frozen tiger’s milk served with pineapple weed marshmallows.
I met up with him to chat pop ups, taking his journey in a more international direction, his favourite gadgets and dealing with the heat in the kitchen. Here’s what he had to say.

Tell me about what you’re working on at the moment.

Lots of different pop ups around London, also, travelling and getting inspiration. I’m planning on doing pop ups in different countries. That’s all off the back of the Basque pop up I did recently. I have a Basque steak dinner in two weeks, then Morocco, Croatia, Turkey, Budapest, two weeks back in London in Granary Square, then August in Majorca, September in Lisbon, December in Columbia.

Far out man, you’re getting around aren’t you?

It’s kind of like a gap year. I never got the chance to take one. Obviously I’m still working and working hard, but I’m just taking a year out of working in restaurants before I continue the journey of opening my own. I want to have fun with it and learn more about different cultures and cuisines.

What style of food will you be cooking in all these different places?
I’m still planning on cooking my own style of food, while paying homage to the techniques and traditional styles of each culture.
Everywhere I go I’d love to bring back three menus. One would be street food, one would be more of a pub style sharing concept and the third would be a tasting menu. I think it’s fun for a chef to have different types of events to allow them to cater for different types of people.
So you’re currently getting out of the 9-5 of being a chef?
Yeah, well 7 – 11! I’m also really enjoying getting involved in the social media side of things which I’ve never really done. It really fun getting people aware and interested in your work online. I’d say more than 50% of pop up bookings are due to online awareness. It’s a really important aspect to running pop-up restaurants and events.
Doing these pop ups, you’re cooking in lots of different kitchens. What makes for a bad kitchen?
At the moment, it’s when they aren’t open. I really like open kitchens. I think when people eat out these days they like to see what’s happening in the kitchen and interact with it in that way. Aside from that, I really just want a kitchen that’s properly decked out. It needs to have a good working oven that cooks at the right temperature. I’m not too bothered about all the gadgets. A lot of chefs focus their food around the gadgets. I really like going back to basics and cooking with a frypan.
What’s is your favourite kitchen gadget?
I’d say a Thermo-mix, because you can cook and blend at the same time, you can make green oils with oil and herbs, throw in raw carrots with some butter and it makes a delicious carrot puree. That’s my favourite gadget, but I really do enjoy cooking in a pan. Cooking over fire too, that’s something I would enjoy.
So if you were stranded on a desert island then you’d be okay?
For sure. Foraging is something I also like to do. A friend of mine goes out and finds me stuff, and sometimes I go along. We find all sorts of things; little mushrooms, bitter cress, wild garlic, elder-flowers. I really like the natural feel of it.
Would foraging be an aspect to your cooking that you would like to include during your travels?
Yes, though it really depends on where I am and what I’m doing. I definitely want to do a foraging pop up event when I have more time in London. The thing about foraging is you can go out and find nothing and then another time find loads. It also depends on the season. Once you find something, then perhaps you pickle it, and then it’s only ready in two months. It’s a gradual process to building up the menu.
You were previously head chef at Pachamamma. What was your inspiration for cooking Peruvian food?
I hadn’t really had any exposure to Peruvian food before. A lot of the stuff I knew at the beginning I learnt in two weeks off YouTube! I think the reason it was such a success was because I wasn’t trying to cook traditionally, I was cooking an English version of Peruvian. What I’m really excited to do in my travels is have a mix of what’s traditional and typical but also blend it to suit the English palate. It’s such a luxury living in London, you can get on a plane and in a few hours be somewhere completely new.
What place would you say has most inspired your cooking philosophy?
Recently, the Basque Country, because I was very focused on that for my last pop up. Really though, I would say London. It has such a wealth of everything, so many different cultures and foods. Also, working in London has really given me the springboard to be able to move on from my 7-11 job, go places and bring back pop-ups.
Who has been the greatest inspiration to you in your career?
No one in particular inspired me to become a chef. I moved back from living in France when I was fifteen years old. I had to work and make money, and the only way to do that at the time was washing dishes in a restaurant. Soon I started peeling veg and I grew to really love it.
I’d say the person that most inspired my cooking was Nuno Mendes. I worked with him for two and a half years. Before I joined him I was more classically French trained. Everything was more square, and circle and diced. He taught me to be more natural with the food and with the ingredients too. It was really amazing working with him.
If you could have something perfectly plated or a big bowl of grub to share, which would you choose?
I’d go for the big bowl of grub. Even though my recent pop up was a tasting menu, I really enjoy the idea of street food and sharing platters. I like the idea of people just being able to have a great time with friends. You appeal to a certain type of clientele by doing tasting menus, but you appeal to so many more people with street food and sharing.
Also, when you go to expensive places you’re paying for all the labour – the waiters, all the chefs in the kitchen. With street food you’re paying for a couple of guys in a booth making that homely cooked food. You have to charge more for tasting menus because of all the work that goes in to it; street food you can make in bigger batches. Neither one is necessarily better than the other, just different, and they appeal to different people.
Do you ever use tweezers when you’re cooking?
I use tweezers a lot. Mostly because my hands are massive, so I need to use them. Otherwise I’m a bit clumsy with my fingers. Also, they really do allow you to be much more precise. They make sense, depending on the type of food that you cook.
So you wouldn’t use them to make a pot roast?
No, but I might use them for flipping tacos or something. I really love tweezers actually.
How do you feel about micro herbs?
They’re great, actually. There’s a guy selling them, Sean ‘The Modern Salad Grower’. His herbs are from a different planet, they’re amazing. If they’re there to enhance the flavour of the dish then I’ll definitely use them, but if they’re just there to make things look pretty i’m not sure that I would. It’s charging the customer more money without more flavour. You need to be able to believe in a dish without needing to put something green on it.
If you could only have one herb in your kitchen what would it be?
That’s tough! I think i’d have to go with rosemary. I really love the flavour but it’s a hard herb. As a soft herb I would say coriander. I know it’s a love or hate thing for a lot of people, though I’ve heard that people are genetically predisposed to hate coriander so I suppose we can’t hold it against them.
What do you love about your job?
One thing I love about the job is being able to make my food different to someone else’s just by using one extra or different ingredient; sometimes it’s good to admit that you aren’t necessarily creating something completely new. You can absorb things and make them your own, so that it’s your own vision and your menu stands out.
Do you think there is anything that’s really new in the kitchen?
No, I don’t think so. Most things have already been created, and you can claim things, but they probably already exist without you even knowing it. It’s at the point now where cooking is so well known across the world. There are so many top chefs, that to create something actually new, i’m not sure that’s possible.
You could just take things back to the beginning, stick your customers in a field with spears and send them around chasing emu or something? ‘If you wanna eat it you gotta catch it’
Yeah! That would make for an amazing pop up actually! You’re giving me some ideas. I like the interactive idea of things. I think being able to go out and talk to the customers is great. That’s why I like an open kitchen. You want people to be able to see the process, but you also want to be able to meet the people that are coming to try your food. It’s important to have an interaction. At least be able to go out at the start or the end and have a chat and see what they thought of things.
Does it get stressful for you in the kitchen?
It can. The last place I worked at, there was a team of fourteen chefs and you can’t be all over every detail, you just can’t. I found it frustrating. I want to be able to control exactly what goes on the plate. One day, I’d really love a small restaurant with five or six chefs maximum, that I can train myself. Then I’d have the time to go out and say hello to the customers. It’s really about creating that unique feeling.
Is there anything you’re squeamish about eating?
I don’t really like kidneys, don’t love the flavour. I’ll eat them in a pie or a stew. Squeamish though? Probably insects. Spiders. I don’t think I could ever eat a spider. I might try a grasshopper, but only if it’s fried and crispy. If it’s gooey I probably wouldn’t bother. You need to try everything once, but not spiders. I couldn’t do it. I hate spiders.
What would you eat for your last meal on earth?
That’s such a tough question, I’m not sure I can answer. Maybe an El Chapo Lucky Chip burger? A meal at Gourmet San in Bethnal Green? Or maybe just a Thai Green Curry, I love it. I really hate that question though.
Chicken or steak?
Beer or wine?
Why did the chicken cross the road?
To go to El Chapo. Those Lucky Chip burgers are delicious!

Casa Julian will offer diners a set three-course menu including dishes like Iberico ham-infused smoked Butter with freshly baked Bread; preserved White Asparagus; 1kg Aged Basque Ribeye (for two), served with Baby Gem, Anchovy & Parsley-roasted Piquillo Peppers; and Arraz con Leche for dessert.

Where: One Sixty Smokehouse & Bar

When:  19th, 20th, 26th and 27th March, open for lunch and dinner services.

How: Tickets must be purchased in advance and cost £50pp.

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