MasterChef winner Kenny Tutt is creating playful food that shows a fertile imagination. Jennie Milsom pays a visit.
When Kenny Tutt took the MasterChef title in 2018, he left his Brighton job as a bank manager and moved back to his hometown of Worthing to open a restaurant.
Winning the competition may have propelled the self-taught chef into the restaurant business, but it was his market-trader parents (hence ‘Pitch') who had inspired a love of food in him from a young age. "I'd always loved cooking," he says. "I'd go out to buy bin bags and come back with quail eggs and truffle oil."
Today, Tutt's culinary inspirations include Keith Floyd ("it's all about the flavour"), Tom Brown of Cornerstone in east London and Tommy Banks of the Black Swan in North Yorkshire, where Tutt did a stage before opening Pitch.
The 70-cover, two-storey restaurant in Worthing's lively Warwick Street consists of a cavernous ground-floor dining room featuring stylish banquettes in sage-hued velvet against a backdrop of palm-tree wall- paper, with skylights and large Roman-style mirrors adding light and a sense of space.
The first-floor is accessed via a spiral staircase and contains a further dining room and cookery school where, until lockdown, Tutt had drafted in experts on disciplines including pasta, spices and fish. The area has since been repurposed into an extra prep kitchen ahead of the cookery school's return.
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme rocketed August bookings following Pitch's reopening in July, with locals snapping up tables. Could Tutt have imagined this two years ago? "You pinch yourself sometimes – never in a million years," he says. A third of the tables have been lost but he remains upbeat, adding: "It felt light and airy and you want a little privacy, anyway." Diners are "a huge mix", and on a weekday lunchtime the restaurant is buzzing with lively chatter. Background music is not required.
In the upstairs kitchen, alongside ex-Le Gavroche head chef Neil Martin, Putt works the grill or the pass. He's a stickler for seasoning, furnishing his brigade of 15 with tasting spoons (he admits Sellotaping one to a colleague's arm). As well as the à la carte, there's a set menu (two courses for £18, three for £21), which runs during lunch and early evenings and includes a glass of house wine.
The savoury Pitch doughnuts (£7) have become something of a signature dish. "I'd always made them at home, playing with flavours. It's a bit of fun – people love them," Tutt says. The brioche-enriched dough is twice-proved and twice-cooked – first ahead of service before being given a blast in the deep-fryer to order. The challenge is inventing fillings that are smooth enough to be piped, Tutt says. The current version is with whipped goats' cheese, blossom honey and thyme, the doughnut dusted with shavings of Golden Cross cheese, its snow-like texture achieved by freezing the cheese first.
Another starter is ‘Royals and Rogues', a tea-smoked duck breast with dukkah yogurt (£9); the duck hot-smoked in the "big smoker upstairs" and the tea, Earl Grey, supplied by Tutt's friend Justin. Meat comes from local supplier Ashley James and fish arrives every morning from Newhaven's MCB Seafoods. "We don't freeze a thing – when it's gone, it's gone," says Tutt. "People like it simple and to know what they're getting."
Desserts, each with an optional wine pairing, include cereal milk panna cotta with praline (£9), which is made by steeping cornflakes in milk overnight. There is also a plate of three petits fours (£5), which includes a squidgy blackcurrant jelly and, for those who prefer a savoury ending, a cheese plate (£9) has been given a refreshing overhaul: blue Stichelton is served with toasted house-made malt loaf, apple sorbet and a dollop of apple purée made by roasting Granny Smiths in their skins until black and blitzing them until smooth; it contains no additional ingredients and tastes like extract of toffee apple, if such a thing existed. "It creates its own sugar," Tutt explains.
Tutt last month launched a street food van called the Pitch. Decked out with a wood-fired oven, it is parked up on the seafront by the big wheel and dishes out gourmet sandwiches and flatbreads stuffed with slow-roasted meats. It also does a vegetarian take on a doner kebab: a stack of marinated mushrooms packed into a fat cone that's carved and served shawarma-style.
Even as summer draws to a close, it seems unlikely that Pitch's popularity will cool. Here's to autumn and winter by the sea.
Pitch, 16 Warwick Street, Worthing, West Sussex BN11 3DJ
From the menu
- King scallops, spiced cauliflower, coral butter, Granny Smith £12
- Cornish crab cake, tarragon mayonnaise £9.50
- Burrata di Puglia, heritage tomatoes, pumpkin seed pesto £8
- Barbecue chicken, confit chicken leg, fried green tomatoes, cornbread £18
- Miso sweet potato, gochujang tofu, black sesame, pickled carrot £16
- Dry aged ribeye, garlic butter, triple-cooked chips, beer-braised shallot £27
- Chocolate orange bar, marmalade ice-cream £9
- Lemon curd tart, buttered toast ice-cream, burnt honey, sherbet £9
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