Tom Clarke first ventured into a professional kitchen when he was 13. Now head chef of Michelin-starred restaurant L’Ortolan in Reading, he talks to us about his plans for Christmas 2017
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A CHEF?
My grandmother was a huge influence and encouraged me to cook for the family as well as buying me lots of books so I could learn more about food. She lived in a small village in Essex and often cooked with locally shot game and fresh produce foraged from the countryside.
WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU JOINED L’ORTOLAN?
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to train with some incredible chefs, including Raymond Blanc, Jean-André Charial and Alan Murchison, who I deputised for before becoming head chef of L’Ortolan.
WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU IMPLEMENTED SINCE TAKING OVER THE HELM?
I have been head chef since January 2015 and since then I have brought some welcome freshness, invention and focused flavours to the menus.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE ASPECT OF CHRISTMAS?
It has to be sitting with my family and friends, eating delicious food and drinking fine drink.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO CHRISTMAS PARTY PLANNERS WHEN IT COMES TO CATERING FOR FESTIVE EVENTS?
Make sure the venue uses good produce, and organise as far in advance as possible to make sure there is a smooth execution.
WHAT’S THE BEST SORT OF FOOD TO SERVE AT A CORPORATE CHRISTMAS EVENT?
It should be fresh and seasonal, so in November and December winter-confit salmon, beetroot, horseradish, sirloin beef, seasonal mushrooms and dauphinoise potatoes are all excellent choices.
WHAT MAKES FOR A SUCCESSFUL CHRISTMAS EVENT WHEN IT COMES TO CATERING?
Happy guests at the end of the event. If people are satisfied, it shows that the execution and organisation all went to plan!
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR L’ORTOLAN IN 2018?
My aim for the future is to keep pushing to be better than the day before – and make sure we aren’t standing still.
TOM CLARKE’S FAVOURITE FESTIVE COCKTAIL
MRS CLAUS’S CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL
• 25ml of L’Ortolan’s home-infused Cinnamon whisky
• 1 sugar cube soaked with 10ml of chocolate bitters
• 25ml Cointreau
• Topped up with chilled Champagne
L’Ortolan is Reading’s only Michelin-starred restaurant. In addition to the main restaurant, L’Ortolan has three private dining rooms which are available to book – each with their own unique style. For larger parties the main restaurant is available for exclusive use with no room-hire charge.
For more information about L’Ortolan or to book, visit lortolan.com or call 0844 502 9607