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Chefs Get Personal

25 May 2021

an interview with Jason Atherton

Chef Name: Jason Atherton

Age: 49

Title: Head Chef and founder/owner of The Social Company

Awards:

Jason’s personal accolades include:

1996: “Best Young Chef” in Britain by Jonathan Meades of The Sunday Times.

2000: “Acorn Award”, from Caterer and Hotelkeeper, an award for the top 30 individuals who are deemed to be the future of the industry

2000: “Young Guns Food Award”, The Daily Express, given to the top ten people in the country who are tipped to change industry in the UK

2001: “Best Chef of the Middle East”, from Time Out Magazine, Dubai

2006: “Chef of the Year” from Fay Maschler of The Evening Standard

2006: “Man of the Year”, from Arena Magazine

2008: “London’s Outstanding Chef”, from The Evening Standard

2012: “Chef Award” at the Catey Awards 2012

2013: “Chef of the Year” at the GQ Awards 2013

2014: “Restaurateur of the Year – Independent” at the Catey Awards 2014

2016:  Number 1 Restaurant magazine’s “100 most influential people in the hospitality industry”

2016: “Restaurateur of the Year” at the GQ Awards 2016

2017: “Restaurateur of the Year” at the Catey Awards

2017: “Restaurateur of the Year” at the National Restaurant Awards2019:Chef’s Chef, AA Hospitality Awards

Some of The Social Company Restaurant’s Awards:

2012: One Michelin Star (Pollen Street Social)

2015: One Michelin Star (City Social)

2017: Number 3 in The Good Food Guide 2018 with a 9/10 score (Pollen Street Social)

2017:  Awarded “Restaurant of the Year” in the 2018 edition of The Square Meal Guide (Pollen Street Social)

2018: Number 55 in the National Restaurant Awards rating (Pollen Street Social)

2020: Three AA Rosettes (The Betterment)

How old were you when you started cooking professionally? 

I was 16 – after getting my first job in the kitchen at a local hotel, I decided to leave my home town and fly to London, where I continued my training and started my career.

What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food? 

My earliest memory of food is the prawn cocktail with a classic ketchup and salad cream sauce made by my mum.

Which chefs inspire you most and why? 

I’ve been lucky to work with truly inspiring chefs but if I have to choose, I’d say Chef Ferran Adria and Chef Thomas Keller as they inspired me a lot at the beginning of my career.

What are your two favourite cookbooks and why? 

The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller – I find it really well produced and inspiring.

Dining in France by a French food critic called Christian Millau – it has recipes from some of the great French chefs including Joël Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire …

Which two ingredients could you not live without?

Sea salt and extra virgin olive oil – they’re essential and improve the flavour of any dish.

What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?

My favourite comfort food is a dish that features on our brand-new Little Social menu: it’s a beautiful rib-eye steak, medium-rare, sourced from one of my oldest suppliers: Lake District Farmers, and served with French fries and béarnaise sauce – it’s delicious.

If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why? 

That’s a tough choice but I would choose the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, New York – the creativity on show and restaurant experience are unbelievable.

And who would you take as your guest?

I would go with my wife Irha.

What do you look for in a good chef?

Someone determined, passionate and creative with the right attitude to work within a team and who’s ready to work hard to succeed.

What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now? 

Have patience, listen, and learn every day with the right mentor. It is a long and tough path to start a career in the hospitality industry, especially with the current health crisis, so I’d also advise them to not be afraid to make mistakes and most of all, to never give up.

How has the pandemic affected your restaurant? And how did you adapt and evolve throughout?

The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit by lockdown measures, but the pandemic has also given us the time and chance to develop new ideas and offers, such as my “Jason at home” delivery boxes in collaboration with Lake District Farmers, as well as my “Jason at home” online homeware store created with Goodfellows.

The wellbeing of our guests and employees is our main priority so we’ve done a lot of work since the first lockdown to ensure we can open as safely as possible. The pandemic has also given us the opportunity to review The Social Company and plan for an even bigger and better return – and now, the opening week has finally arrived and I’m super excited to be back in Little Social, my bistro-style restaurant and wine bar in Mayfair – now open for alfresco all-day dining & drinking – and very soon, in my brand-new addition to the Biltmore Hotel: the Café Biltmore & Terrace. We’ve rearranged our outdoor seating to make sure they’re safely distanced, and we’ve added some heaters and umbrellas so all our tables on the terrace are heated and covered, ready to face the British weather.  

I’m looking forward to May 18th, when we will finally be able to open Pollen Street Social, Social Eating House, The Blind Pig bar, City Social and Berners Tavern.

Can you share any wisdom from the experience so far with others? Have you changed? Has your cooking changed?

Working in the hospitality industry is tough and requires a lot of patience and energy but when you are really passionate and know what you’re doing, everything becomes easier. My food is constantly evolving, mainly inspired by my travels (pre-pandemic) and by the new trends, markets and customers’ expectations. Throughout my journey I learnt a lot, including how communication is the key to everything and how to make the best of most situations, but if there’s one thing I should always remember it is to keep pushing yourself, believe in your dream and work hard to succeed. Oh, and also maybe take a day off every now and then to relax!

Chef Jason Atherton is Head Chef and founder/owner of The Social Company

Website: www.jasonatherton.co.uk

Address: 8-10 Pollen St, London, UK

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7290 7600

Instagram: @_jasonatherton & @pollen_street_social

Twitter: @_SocialCompany

Photo Credits: John Carey @johncareyphotos

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