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Arguably the poster boy for food-led pubs up and down the country, Tom Kerridge has inspired a generation of chefs to elevate their food to the highest standards, while making their environments relaxed and accessible.
Together with his sculptor wife, Beth, Tom threw open the doors of the Hand & Flowers in Marlow in 2005. It fast became a foodie destination, thanks to Tom’s hearty cuisine. It was awarded a Michelin star within a year of opening. A Newcomer Catey followed swiftly afterwards.
The adoration and awards continued apace, and when Tom triumphed in the BBC’s Great British Menu in 2010, the Hand & Flowers was propelled into the public’s psyche. Business boomed, and the Great British Menu effect was a launchpad for Tom’s TV career. When a second star was awarded two years later, making the Hand & Flowers the first and only pub to secure such a status, bookings went stratospheric.
So it’s something of a surprise to learn that Tom wasn’t originally destined for the hotplate. As a child actor, he appeared as “borstal boy” and “thug one” on TV shows such as Miss Marple and London’s Burning, before finding his way onto a catering course. However, the moment he walked into a professional kitchen, he fell in love, seduced by the notion that chefs were like the “naughty boys” he went to school with.
After cutting his teeth at Calcot Manor in Tetbury in his home county of Gloucestershire, Tom went on to work at the Capital hotel under renowned chef Philip Britten. Three years at the Stephen Bull restaurant followed, then two years with Gary Rhodes at his Pimlico restaurant, before Tom joined Odette’s in Primrose Hill as sous chef. A stint at Monsieur Max in Hampton preceded a move to Norwich in 2003, where he took over the running of the kitchen at the Michelin-starred restaurant Adlard’s.
Eighteen months later, Tom and Beth decided to look for a site of their own, but a limited budget meant they ended up taking over a run-down pub in Marlow in partnership with Greene King.
The Hand & Flowers opened after a refurbishment in February 2005 and four guest rooms were added two years later. It was immediately celebrated for its outstanding food and lack of pretension.
In December 2014, concerned that the Hand & Flowers had morphed from the accessible local pub that Tom and Beth had wanted, they opened the Coach in Marlow, working on a non-bookable, first come, first served basis. Alongside his astounding career as a chef-restaurateur, Tom has publishing several cookery
books. His fourth, The Dopamine Diet, was released in January after Tom lost a phenomenal 12 stone in three years, as a result of a diet plan he devised himself.
This year, he delivered his first Pub in the Park – a music festival in Higginson Park, Marlow, which served gourmet food, “cracking music and lush vibes”. And despite a busy diary, the affable chef is well known for his support of many charities, including the Alex Lewis Trust, Hospitality Action and Scannappeal.
What the judges said
“Tom and Beth have shown the whole industry how to start at a grass-roots level and become stars. We are all so proud of them.”
“Tom has demonstrated a robust approach to growing a diverse portfolio. He’s an inspiration to young chefs.”
Paul Ainsworth, No 6, Padstow, Cornwall
Chris Galvin, Galvin Restaurants
Tom Kerridge, The Hand & Flowers, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Nathan Outlaw, Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Port Isaac, Cornwall
Jason Atherton, The Social Company
Sat Bains, Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
John Campbell, John Campbell Restaurants
Giovanna Grossi, Advisor to the AA
Angela Hartnett, Murano, London
Simon Rogan, L’Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria
Clare Smyth, Core by Clare Smyth, London
Richard Vines, Bloomberg
Marcus Wareing, Marcus Wareing Restaurant