In the second article in our monthly series chefs behind the chefs, Kerstin Kuhn speaks to AA Chef of the Year Tom Kerridge and his head chef Aaron Mulliss, who have been working together at the Hand & Flowers since 2007
Tom Kerridge, chef proprietor, the Hand & Flowers
"The Hand & Flowers has grown massively in the last eight years. When we first started there were three of us in the kitchen; now we have a full brigade of 16 chefs. As the business has grown there have been some fantastic members of staff that have grown with it, most importantly Aaron, who has been instrumental in our success.
Aaron was working for my friend David Philpott, whom I'd worked with at Monsieur Max. He contacted me and said he had a young boy looking to move and Aaron came in and started working on the garnish section. I think initially he found it quite hard but he settled in quickly and I promoted him to junior sous chef after just a few months.
The more the business has grown, the less hands-on involved I have to be in the day-to-day running of the kitchen. Aaron is incredibly good at making the pass work. He always wants to be faster, better and stronger than anyone else. He has a huge ability to run the kitchen, he has a very clean eye, is very artistic and consistent with extremely high standards.
Aaron and I are the complete opposite of each other. We're a bit like a Laurel and Hardy kitchen team: he's the more serious one and I'm the one who just wants to have a laugh but we work incredibly well together. We try really hard to make our kitchen a good working environment where everyone gets on. We care hugely about our staff and that everyone is happy.
Aaron's determination and hard work are amazing; he gives 100% all the time and I can't think of anyone who is more driven. He loves my business as much as I do and is as committed to it, which is massive and it filters through to everyone else.
Aaron completely has the ability to run his own place and would be able to go on and do wonderful things on his own. But I think he loves being here; he's the head chef of the only two-Michelin-starred pub in the world and there's a lot of support here. We're like a big family at the Hand and Flowers. "
Aaron Mulliss, head chef, The Hand and Flowers "I came to eat at the Hand and Flowers about eight years ago and I remember I had the shin of beef with bone marrow and glazed carrots. That dish was the reason I wanted to come and work here; the flavour was amazing. When I met Tom, he was so passionate, driven and full of ambition, it was incredible to see.
I joined in 2007 as chef de partie on the garnish section. When we moved into the new kitchen I was promoted to junior sous chef and when the sous chef left, Tom offered me his job. On Christmas Eve 2010, Tom and Beth and my partner and I went for a meal at the Sportsman in Kent and Tom offered me the job of head chef. There had never been a head chef at the Hand and Flowers before and, next to winning the second Michelin star, that was the most amazing day of my life.
Tom and I work in a similar way, I've learned a lot from him. We both push and drive the guys on and rule with an iron fist. Now that Tom spends less time in the kitchen that's more my role, to make sure they stay in check and don't go off the ball. It's not a shouty environment and everyone gets on but we are the only two-Michelin-starred pub in the world so we have to make sure that every dish that leaves the kitchen is perfect. Tom's food is very personal to him but because we have worked together for a long time I really understand what he wants. The most important thing is always flavour.
Tom gives so much and is always there for everyone. His ethos and how he runs the pub is amazing and we feed off his energy all the time. He's always smiling and no matter how bad a day you might be having, he always makes you feel better.
One day possibly I will open my own place. At the moment, the Hand and Flowers is a million miles away from where it was when I joined but we're still pushing on and I want to be a part of that for at least another five years."
We talk to Eric Chavot and Richard Hondier of London's recently crowned Michelin-starred Brasserie Chavot