My current position is as head chef of Roux at Parliament Square, owned by the legendary chef Michel Roux Jnr, who by his own admission was "born in the kitchen". My own background couldn't be more different. I didn't grow up in a foodie family in any sense of the word and the kitchen duties were often left to my dad, whose cooking repertoire consisted largely of burnt fish fingers and lumpy mashed potato!
It was however around this time that TV chefs were really starting to emerge, notably Gary Rhodes. Seeing Gary's enthusiasm for cooking really simple, accessible dishes, which championed British menus, really drove my enthusiasm for cooking and fuelled my ambition to follow a career as a chef.
My journey started from there. I took a job in a local pub and found that I loved the spirit of the kitchen and the hospitality element of being a chef: meeting customers and seeing their enthusiasm is the part of my job that I love.
Throughout my career, the piece of advice that I will always take with me is the importance of seasonality. I champion creating dishes that are influenced by the seasons and use the produce available at that time of year. Finding local suppliers, farmers markets and food markets is vital. Not only does it mean that I am supporting local businesses but I am serving fresh food which, as it's in-season, tastes much better as well!
When chef Michel and I create our menus for Parliament Square, we look to the seasons to inspire us. Now that we are heading into autumn there are a range of vegetables, game and fish that are available: wild mushrooms, truffles, root vegetables such as butternut squash and pumpkins, John Dory fish, mussels, oysters and also game such as grouse, partridges and pheasants.
We have come together for the American Express Kitchen Influentials event as part of London Restaurant Festival and to create a dish for the lunch the first thing we did was to look at 'nature's larder'. Guinea fowl are now at their prime so we have paired that with truffles which are at the very start of the season, and celeriac, which are now lovely and ripe so have a nutty refreshing flavour which complements the guinea fowl.
Cooking by the seasons really isn't as hard as it sounds. There is plenty of information online and in books where you can discover what is and isn't available at this time of year. Check out your local food markets and if you're London based, Borough Market is an absolute gem for in-season produce. It's a melting pot of fresh vegetables, cheese and meat suppliers as well as Spanish produce, great fishmongers and fantastic street food - if you love delicious food then it really is the place to go.
By adapting your cooking to complement the seasons you'll also find that not only is it a joy to cook but to eat as well! The food will taste much fresher and richer, your diet will have more variety and you'll discover new combinations of produce that you may never have paired together before.
As well as the importance of seasonality my top tips for those who love to rustle up a good meal at home would be:
• When cooking at home don't over complicate it. Pick three flavours and ensure that they are cooked to perfection rather than 10 flavours that are done less well
• Experiment with family and friends. Not only will they be they be brutally honest but they will encourage and inspire you to be the best you can
American Express Kitchen Influentials, taking place on Sunday 7 October, is one of the hero events of this year's London Restaurant Festival featuring eight unique pairings of chefs and their protégés that have inspired them.
Tickets are available at some of the restaurants, for information and tickets please visit www.londonrestaurantfestival.com.
To take a sneak peek behind the scenes of Roux at Parliament Square and to hear more from Toby and Chef Michel Roux Jnr himself, click below
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