Meet the chef: Talking food with Tom Cenci of Loyal Tavern
When chef Tom Cenci announced late last year that he would be stepping down from his post as Executive Chef of London favourite Duck & Waffle, he said he would be taking the time off to spend with family and loved ones, but teased a big announcement was to come in the new year.
Cenci’s 6-and-a-half years at Duck & Waffle saw the restaurant climb to number 29 on the UK’s top 100 restaurants and diners and critics alike have been eagerly waiting for his next move. Food writer Ina Yulo gets the inside scoop just ahead of Cenci’s latest opening, Loyal Tavern in Bermondsey.
You started your cooking career from quite a young age by writing to a local hotel and asking to work in their kitchen. With the current industry climate, what advice would you give to aspiring chefs wanting to get their foot in the door?
To do the same, it’s all about the experience. So many young chefs fresh out of college have never even worked in a kitchen before and are entirely unaware of how a professional kitchen works. Most of the top places would welcome them with open arms if they were just to ask.
You’ve worked at restaurants in France, Turkey, Canada, and the UK. What were some of the key learnings you took from each place?
The locality of produce. It varied so much from each place I worked and it taught me to appreciate what the local farms and producers have to offer.
If you had friends coming around for dinner, what would you make them?
Depends on the friends. Whenever entertaining, I try to stick to what I know, that way I know it always works, and it makes it easier for myself. As usual, it will be on my day off. If I have close friends or family over, then I try to experiment a lot more.
You created Hospitali-Tee to help raise awareness for the importance of mental health and wellbeing within the hospitality industry. What are some ways chefs and owners can ensure their staff is happy and supported?
Listen to their staff, give them a voice, and try supporting them rather than ignore them. So many employers don’t take the time to sit down and speak with their staff. If only they were to listen.
Cooking at Duck & Waffle, which is open 24 hours, you must have seen a lot of interesting things. Care to share a good story with us?
Late nights at DW were always entertaining; the guests can be a lot of fun. I remember once a conga line formed in the restaurant. You don’t see that every day!
You took a break from restaurants over the past year. How did you keep busy?
Spending time with family, friends, and loved ones. Loved every minute of it. Taking time off is essential. I’d recommend it to anyone if they get a chance to do the same.
When not at your own restaurant, where can we find you dining?
It’s hard to say, we are spoilt for choice in London. I currently have over 100 places I’d still like to visit, but I live near White City where they have a new Kricket and it’s my go-to place at the moment.
Your new venture Loyal Tavern opens on September 6th. What should diners expect?
Diners can expect simple, rustic comfort food with a focus on quality seasonal produce. We want it to be a local restaurant that not only Bermondsey is proud of, but London too.
Why did you decide to open the restaurant in Bermondsey?
It’s a great location and I get the opportunity to work alongside Adam White who has opened some of London’s top institutions.
Could you name a dish on the new menu that is an absolute must-have?
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific dish at the moment as we are still currently finalising the menu, but we try to put as much into every dish as we can.
Address: 171-173 Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, London SE1 3UW
Phone: 020 7260 2560