21 January 2020 From Courier Issue 33 (Feb/Mar 2020)

For chefs, permanent sites aren’t the only answer

Pop-ups, creative hubs and collaborations are all on the menu.

 

In the UK, it’s getting harder and harder to run a profitable restaurant as rents increasingly spiral out of control and staff become more difficult to hire since Brexit. Chefs are increasingly looking to work without a permanent base. Five years old and based in London, Carousel is an open kitchen that hosts an always-changing line-up of talented chefs from around the world. Here, director Ed Templeton explains more about the concept.

In the five years since you launched, have you seen the demand for cooking residencies rise?

When we opened Carousel, the whole guest chef thing wasn’t anywhere near as mainstream as it is now. Nuno Mendes – who we collaborated with in November – had started the trend a few years earlier with his Loft Project. We were the first permanent restaurant to run back-to-back residencies from one week to the next. I think we still are, even if guest chef residencies are now a lot more commonplace. Platforms like ours that help them bring their ideas to life are a great way for chefs to see the world, raise their profile and showcase what they do beyond their own cities, hassle-free. From the diner’s perspective, you get to try amazing food from talented chefs that wouldn’t be available on your doorstep otherwise.

Moving forwards, will there be more chef residencies?

The trend isn’t slowing down. Exciting new talent is emerging in cities across the world. Swapping kitchens and ideas is second nature to this new generation of chefs. We’re in the age of collaboration over competition.

What are the benefits to residencies over, say, chefs staying put at permanent sites? 

What you don’t get with constantly revolving residencies is the benefit of those ‘You must try the [eg turbot] at [eg Brat in London] word-of-mouth conversations. The upside is that you’re constantly giving your diners new reasons to visit. Of course there’s a risk that people will say ‘No thanks’ but the beauty is that there’s something for everyone. If someone isn’t keen on Japanese food, say, next week they know it’s going to be someone and something completely different. Another benefit is that guest chefs become part of our team while they’re here and the exchange |of ideas flows both ways.

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