From The Kitchens:
Tom Griffiths of Flank
The British chef who’s bringing people together with his comforting open fire cooking.
Flank is the creation of chef Tom Griffiths opening this month as part of the new Foster+Partners designed kitchen at Old Spitalfields Market. Serving up his modern take on simple British food – expect comforting nose-to-tail dishes lovingly prepared on an old-fashioned fire.
Designed as a ‘grab and go’ formula to suit the market kitchen, the menu is made up of five main courses all cooked on an open fire, you’ve got grazed meat and seared meat, poultry – either chicken or duck cooked over the coals and two vegetarian options. Then come the sides, from mash potato and pan stock, to cauliflower cheese, and onions and cabbage. When you’re ready, hit the sauce counter; made in-house, Flank completes it’s dishes with an offering of curry sauce, hot sauce, piccalilli, fruit sauce, pan stock and dill salad cream.
Griffith is down-to-earth and humble, endearing characteristics evident in his honest menu and cooking style. He’d tell you, “It’s just a bit of grub, and it’s me earning a living.” But it’s impossible to ignore his creativity and thoughtful sentiments around both cooking and eating food. We sat with Griffiths in a leafy London park to discuss the roots of his craft, why his mistakes are his biggest inspirations, the importance of cooking on fire, and what the East End means to him.
On starting out….
Cooking was the only thing I was good at. I struggled with exams at school and failed in music – I really wanted to be in a band. It was something I did at home a lot – I cooked for my family and thought I’d give that a go. It was more that I had to do something, it was just a job.
On the east end…
One of my favourite restaurants is in Spitalfields, St. John – so that’s a bit daunting. My food is different to what they offer, it’s a bit more contemporary, whereas St. John is quite old school. The classic British cooking they do is unbelievable – it takes balls to do something so simple so well. For me being in the East End, that’s the thing – doing British cooking and keeping it simple, and that’s what I’ve done.
On opening in the Old Spitalfields Market Kitchen…
It’s exciting because I don’t want to alienate myself, and the market opens you up to so many people. I don’t care who you are, what your background is, what you believe in, whatever. I want you to be able to eat my food and understand what’s going on and enjoy it. That’s it.
I feel most inspired to create a dish when something goes wrong – when you’re ingredients didn’t come in and you have to remake your dish and your brain starts working in a more logical and resourceful way. When everything is perfect there aren’t so many questions, and you always have to question yourself. If you have a massive ego and always think that everything you do is perfect, you can never be inspired by anything.
“I cook on fire, and for me fire brings people together. That’s what my food is about — it’s about company”
On nose-to-tail dining…
Nose-to-tail just means using the whole animal, so there will be fillet steak on the menu and ribeye, but also cheek and shin, oxtail, heart – those kind of things. It’s a more sustainable way to cook. At the moment we waste thousands of tons of meat in this country. People aren’t eating more sustainably because they don’t know how to cook the meat that way. There’s a reason why people eat ribeye and sirloin, it’s because you put it in a pan, sear it both sides, eat it and it’s done.
On dining at Flank….
I want my customers to feel like they’re in someone’s garden or out the back of somewhere on an autumn’s afternoon, having a load of food and a load of beers with your mates and just enjoying it.
I cook on fire, and for me fire brings people together. For me that’s what my food is about – it’s about company. It’s about being with people you love and people you enjoy being around. It’s more about just hanging out and eating and not really thinking about it too much. I don’t wanna think about food too much anymore. I just want to cook it and make it tasty.
I have my Flank brigade set up. They’re top drawer. We’ve got no front of house, we are going to be doing all of it. So it’s going to be interesting teaching chef’s people skills – that’s going to be a bit of a challenge!