The Dish: Tom Sellers

Last night Tom Sellers reopened his debut Michelin-starred restaurant, Story, with a fresh look, no menus and a playlist that might just include drum and bass act Rudimental. Instead, each table will be treated individually, and invited to create their own bespoke “story”, while as much of the food and beverage service as possible will be “performed in the dining room in front of guests, from a drinks trolley to table-side food preparation.” These are just some of the culinary flourishes that make Sellers approach to fine dining stand out, who has never toed the line when it comes to his craft. Born in Nottinghamshire in 1987, Sellers left school at the age of 16 and took his first job in a pub kitchen. There, he fell in love with cooking, and decided to pursue it as a career. In 2003 he knocked on fellow chef Tom Aikens’ door and asked for a job at his eponymous Michelin-starred Chelsea restaurant. Aikens recognised his talent and taught him the craft during their two-and-a-half years working together, where Seller’s worked as commis chef, then chef de partie. At 19, in 2006, Sellers moved to New York and joined Thomas Keller as chef de partie in the kitchen at three Michelin-starred Per Se. Two years later he returned to work in the UK as sous chef under chef patron Adam Byatt at Trinity in Clapham before heading to Copenhagen to take up a post working alongside René Redzepi at the two Michelin-starred Noma. Returning to London, at the age of 26 Tom opened Restaurant Story in 2013, and within five months the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star. Last night, Sellers oversaw its grand re-opening.

What/who influenced your decision to become a chef?

It was the head chef of the kitchen where I had my first job as a pot wash. He took me under his wing and taught me some skills then encouraged me to go work for Tom Aikens.

Can you remember/describe your first shift in a kitchen?

Like coming home!

What is your earliest wine memory?

Probably of not liking it!

What has been your most memorable meal?

I’m lucky to have had many. Frantzen in Stockholm is a meal I’ll never forget.

How important is wine to a meal, from a chef’s point of view?

To me, extremely – it can balance, or enhance any dish. I am a true champion of airing outside of wine alone – I think a lot of beverages can be paired with food such as sake, beer or cocktails.

What would be your ultimate food and wine pairing?

A perfect steak and glass of good red.

Who is your inspiration in the winemaking and gastronomic world and why?

I think the dedication to their craft in both fields is incredible. I don’t have one person I follow avidly however.

Biggest kitchen disaster?

Almost severing the tendons in my hand. Nearly lost the use of my thumb.

If you could give your younger self advice starting out as a chef, what would it be?

Don’t listen to what other people tell you, in fact I tell myself that now!

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?

Whatever it is, I’d be doing it well, haha.

Besides cooking, which talent would you most like to have?

Pro footballer?!

What would be your best piece of culinary advice for an aspiring home cook?

Don’t give up, keep practising. Be the first in and the last to leave.

If you could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of your life, where would you choose?

Story – well maybe not eat, but it’s certainly the one I’m going to be at forever.

What else would you like to achieve in life?

I’d like to open more restaurants that are as unique as Restaurant Story.

And finally, what is your life motto?

It’s better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.

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