Will Bowlby is the co-founder and head chef of Kricket – a trio of London-based, Indian-inspired restaurants that serve up tasty small plates to indulge in.
Will gained his experience working at Le Cafe Anglais under the guidance of Rowley Leigh for two years, before he moved to Cheval in Mumbai as head chef for a further two years. Travelling around India on a food tour for six months before returning to the UK, Will opened Kricket at POP Brixton in 2015, alongside university friend Rik Campbell.
Only a year in, Will was nominated for Chef of the Year at the Young British Foodie (YBF) awards and labelled as a ‘chef to watch,’ and it’s easy to see why. In 2017, the team opened Kricket Soho, followed by the opening of Kricket Brixton and Kricket at the Television Centre in White City in 2018 – also the year that Will launched his debut cookbook, Kricket: An Indian-inspired cookbook – and all before the age of 30.
Today, Will still makes regular trips to India as a source of inspiration for his dishes as well as heading to his happy place to recharge. We recently sat down with the talented young chef and discussed everything from his culinary inspiration to his top dishes.
What inspired you to become a chef?
At the age of 10 I saw Jamie Oliver start his TV career as the ‘Naked Chef’ and that’s what got me going. I was excited by the fact that seemingly anyone could cook food and be creative. Since that point I wanted to cook so I started a one-man catering company that allowed me to create my own menus and try them out at dinner parties.
What’s your signature dish?
I can’t say I have one specific signature dish. There are staples on our Kricket menus that constantly remain, such as the bhel puri, samphire pakoras, pumpkin and our Keralan fried chicken, and I guess they can be considered as signatures to myself and Kricket. Although my cooking range goes beyond Indian food, and my style is very much dictated by what is around me, so called ‘signatures’ change the whole time based on what I’m happy with.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
Seasonal, local (wherever possible) and relevant to their original source. The history of food inspires me to create new dishes for our menus. I’m fascinated by the massive variety of Indian food and how it changes so much from place to place. Cultural imprints and influences from previous role have shaped much of the cuisine and its important to me that each and every dish has a provenance and that it is thoroughly thought out.
Rather than making ‘fusion’ for the sake of it, I want to improve something original, and when something is good enough to be left alone unadulterated, then it will be. All our fish is locally sourced from the British Isles with no exception, as is most of our meat and some of our vegetables. With India having such a prominent vegetarian sector, this is carefully considered in each of our menus.
What would you do if you weren’t a chef?
I’m not too sure, this has been my dream since I was 10 so since then I’ve only had one direction in mind. Before that I would have liked to been a footballer (which is most boy’s dream, and it wouldn’t have happened!). I suppose I would have liked to follow in my father’s footsteps by going into the art world.
What is your favourite dish to cook at home?
My mother’s chicken in a pot. Every time I go home to my family, my mum cooks this for me and it immediately makes me feel happy. It’s fairly straightforward to make but you have to use great chicken, it provides everything you want from a meal. I’ve been eating it for as long as I can remember, it defines comfort food.
What is your favourite ingredient?
I get the most pleasure out of cooking a serious bit of beef, slowly over fire if possible. The difference in good and bad beef is so great it may as well be called something else. On a day to day basis I love cooking with curry leaves, and it shows on the menus! They’re completely unique in taste.
When are you happiest?
Probably on my spot in Goa. It used to be my getaway when I lived in Mumbai, and I could escape the chaos of the city, it’s still the one place on earth I can allow myself to switch off from everything, which can be a challenge. Another place that does a similar trick is in Ibiza with the family. On that note, anywhere with family, as long as they’re happy, it helps.