Great British Menu 2017 finalist, 2018 winner Tom Brown, specialises in cooking seafood and is passionate about Cornish produce. Brown is now in charge of his own restaurant – Cornerstone – in Hackney Wick. The restaurant is named after the chef’s favourite Arctic Monkeys song.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m originally from Cornwall and that’s also where I started my career. I worked in various restaurants around the South West including Rick Stein’s fish, before I met Nathan Outlaw. I started working for Nathan at the St Enodoc Hotel in Rock where I climbed the ranks until I became head chef. After three years there, I moved to London to be head chef at Nathan’s eponymous restaurant at The Capital hotel in Knightsbridge. Then, last year after I was a finalist on Great British Menu 2017 I felt like it was the right time to spread my wings and go it alone. It’s always a chef’s dream to have control over what you do and Cornerstone has absolutely been that!
Why did you choose to open a restaurant in Hackney Wick?
Ever since I’ve lived in London I’ve always loved Hackney Wick, so when I came across this site it felt perfect. Hackney Wick has a such a great vibe and community and I felt it totally suited the type of restaurant I wanted to open. I was working in Knightsbridge before and although I loved the restaurant, I didn’t exactly fit in that area, walking around with all these tattoos. But in Hackney Wick, there are so many artists and creative people and it is so vibey.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Opening Cornerstone and all the success that has brought!
Which ingredients and cuisines have most influenced your cooking?
British ingredients are my bread and butter, especially British seafood. The ingredients are the most important thing – if you don’t get those right, you may as well not open the doors. We’re constantly working on ideas and that is what I love. We get a nice bit of fish and do a nice piece of veg with it. We buy the best scallops we can and do a nice tomato dressing. They’re the only two things on the plate and they speak for themselves.
What are you cooking today?
All sorts. The dishes that are standards on the menu are the shrimp crumpets and pickled oysters. Although I do like to change the ingredients up of those dishes every now and then just to keep it fresh!
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Alex Turner and Thierry Henry.
What is your favourite smell and ingredients?
My favourite smell is the Cornish sea air – it’s home! In terms of ingredients, just any type of British seafood. I love getting something different through the door from my suppliers and experimenting.
What engages you when you are not cooking?
Football (Arsenal of course) and music.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Hellman’s mayonnaise on everything! Equal amounts of mayonnaise to chips is a must.
Where is your favourite place for breakfast and coffee?
Pearl – it is legendary!
Tell us about a secret Hackney spot we might not be aware of..
Brunswick East in Dalston.
Surprise us with a revelatory fact about yourself…
I never really intended to become a chef. I did it for a bit and learnt to love it – loved the creativity and the gratification.