Chris Gillard is executive chef at EartH Kitchen in London’s Dalston. The restaurant is opening in partnership with Village Underground founder Auro Foxcroft this month at EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney), a new live music and arts space in a former Art Deco cinema, with the restaurant taking over the cinema’s old foyer.
You were executive chef at St John Group and with the group for 15 years – what was it that appealed to you about EartH Kitchen?
EartH Kitchen came up as a project in an exciting space in east London – a restaurant at the hub of a music and arts venue. I’m looking forward to cooking in my neighbourhood for locals and friends.
How different is the food from what you were doing at St John?
The food is going to have a bit more of an Italian influence, with a big emphasis on vegetables and grains, but there’s still room for a few of my old St John favourites.
Tell us about the site.
The restaurant is part of an amazing old Art Deco cinema built in 1936 on Stoke Newington Road, where EartH runs two music venues. It is a big, open room with a dramatic ceiling that sweeps down from the seating in the theatre above to a central bar and open kitchen. It will transform from daytime café and co-working space to dining room in the evening and cocktail bar by night, and there’s also a community-driven recording studio.
What dishes are you most looking forward to diners trying?
I’ve been fairly free to work on and develop dishes over the past couple of years. From the new, such as roast squash with radicchio and pickled raisins to revisited classics like tarte tatin.
We’ll be open for breakfast, serving classics like haddock kedgeree, avocado toast and fresh croissants, with brunch on the weekends and a seasonal set lunch menu throughout the week. At dinner we will be serving dishes such as pork and duck rillettes with cornichons and toast, braised Cotswold Gold chicken with butterbeans, leeks and aïoli, or griddled ox heart, chips and house ketchup. For pudding you can have steamed ginger pudding with marmalade butterscotch and vanilla ice-cream, or rum and raisin semifreddo.
You’re also focusing on training and will be bringing in apprentices from Hackney City College – why was this important to you?
To me, it’s a really important part of running a neighbourhood restaurant in Hackney. I would like young trainees to see the opportunity to learn full kitchen skills at EartH.
We are advertising for prospective apprentices with the collaboration of Hackney City college and would like to see direct links with training grow. I would envisage a kitchen where there could be two or three trainees at different stages of their study. We would also hope for apprentices to stay on into full employment in the future.
Do you have any more plans for the restaurants?
With the music link there are definitely thoughts of cooking in a festival environment, but for the moment I’m just excited to be working with a new team and to be back behind the stoves.