We met with the Nikkei Boys, Chef’s Jordan Sclare and Michael Paul at their central London location Chotto Matte.
The guys first met at Thames Valley University and became great friends. Leaving TVU they went their separate ways, but stayed in touch. So much so, that over the following years a number of job offers and opportunities arose that could have seen them working together, however circumstances and timings seemed to get in the way of the pair teaming up.
For Jordan, his career saw him finishing a five year apprenticeship at the Savoy Hotel, his time at TVU being a part of this. His next position was with Gordon Ramsay at his 3 Michelin star restaurant in Chelsea, where he spent the next 30 months. Jordan describes this period as one of the hardest: working 95 hours a week under extremely stressful conditions. He admits that only the powerful values and teachings he inherited from his parents prevented him from abandoning the job after just a few weeks. He then moved to Nobu restaurant in Park Lane, London where he spent the next six years of his career working his way up to being the youngest sous chef at Nobu and eventually Head Chef, and maintained a Michelin star throughout his lead. Jordan has also held Executive Head Chef positions at Buddha Bar London, where he was not only involved in the opening but also bringing the concept over from Paris, and at Aqua Kyoto London winning 2AA rosettes in his 2nd year. His amazing CV also includes cooking for Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani on his private yacht.
Michael, in the meantime believes the secret behind great food is to keep it fresh, seasonal and as simple as possible, with a strong emphasis on taste! And most importantly to be happy – “A happy chef means happy food!” laughs Michael. Happy Food perfectly describes the Bento Box we sampled as the conversation continued.
Following his graduation from TVU he began his career at the Royal Automobile Club with Head Chef Phillip Corrick. Developing a stronger passion for food and quality, Michael continued his career working alongside David Cavalier at Charlton House, where he gained a large amount of knowledge, which he instills in his methodology today
Then in late 2013 that “opportunity” and the timings all worked out, with restaurant entrepreneur Kurt Zdesar looking for a team to help bring his dream of a “Nikkei” style restaurant into the heart of London’s West End and the Nikkei Boys were born. Chotto Matte opened at the end of 2014 and has become one of the most talked about restaurants in the area.
We then asked our favourite question – where do they love to visit, when they can. Do we get two each came the cheeky reply.
Chef Sclare went first:
Central in Lima Peru is just incredible. Chef Virgilio Martinez creates some amazing dishes with the freshest of ingredients, some from their own gardens in the middle of the city. I recently visited again with Kurt when we spent a month in Peru sampling every type of food from restaurants to carnival and street food markets.
Tetou – this restaurant in Cannes has so much history from its very humble beginnings as a beach hut, to now being considered one of the “Homes” of Bouillabaisse. This simple fish soup beats some examples I have had in Michelin Star restaurants. They do one thing and do it very well.
And Chef Michael gave us these Favourite Tables locations:
I have to say that my all time favourite has to be Ferran Adria’s – El Bulli which sadly closed back in 2011.
Most recently I have revisited Restaurant Martín Berasategui near San Sebastian Northern Spain Simple but very clinical and relaxed dining very enjoyable
In London i’m almost a regular at The Chiltern Firehouse
Originally from Harrogate in North Yorkshire, Chef Paul Sowden was not initially destined for a culinary career. Having, in his words, done well at school, Paul was set to join the RAF as an officer trainee. But whilst on the induction programme it was discovered at the last minute that he would not be fit to fly aircraft. Other military careers were offered but Paul left bitterly disappointed he would not see the world from the seat of a fighter jet.
Pot Washer – That was a role taken for necessity and Paul found himself working in a local Leeds hotel where one weekend due to kitchen staff not turning up he was press-ganged on to the hot section and loved it. Becoming a regular in the kitchen he progressed quickly taking on more responsibility. A chance meeting with an other chef and advice of “stop working with frozen ingredients” and “use the best and freshest that local can provide”, saw him move to an up and coming central Leeds restaurant Sous le Nez where his skills developed quickly, becoming the senior person in the kitchen. The chef that gave the advice of not using frozen was Simon Gueller of Rascasse and he persuaded Paul to join the kitchen team ( briefly working alongside Daniel Clifford, what ever happened to him??)
Next few years saw Paul returning to Sous le Nez, work for the Tomahawk Hotel Group and take on the challenging but rewarding role at a Hotel/restaurant near Nottingham. A chance meeting with the new owner saw Paul heading up the team and starting from scratch developing the restaurant concept, menus and securing supplier agreements – that Hotel was the Clumber Park Hotel
Moving to London in 2010 Paul had the fortune to meet with the team behind the Mint Group, a successful entertainment group in London and, for a initial period of three years, he worked on a “development kitchen” basis changing the menus across three restaurants. The company operates Koko in Camden, Mary Janes in EC London and Bison and Bird in Clapham.
Around 18 months ago, Paul and the management team at the Mint Group embarked on a project to create a new restaurant, bringing together the vibrancy of Miami South Beach, the food cultures of Latin America and the precise exactness of Japanese food preparation and presentation. Mommi on Clapham High Road is the first of this restaurant style to be opened by the Mint Group with a few other cities earmarked for future openings.
Mommi has received some great comments from diners who talk about the relaxed fun atmosphere, DJ music and fabulous cocktails hitting the right notes with locals and those that travel just to see what this unique combination is about.
Favourite Tables acknowledged that as Executive Chef at Mommi he has probably had very little spare time on his hands over the past year so any restaurant he said were his favourite tables would obviously be something special… so Chef where have you visited again recently?
Restaurant Pakta in Barcelona, Spain. This is one of the first restaurants in which I experienced Nikkei cuisine. It has become a firm favourite for my wife and I
I also have a “Favourite Tables” place which serves simple dishes packed with flavour. They are not great on the whole Twitter and Facebook thing. I’m not sure they even have a website but The Stockpot in London’s Soho, has been a secret pleasure of mine for a long time.
18 Old Compton St, London W1D 4TN
020 7287 1066
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Our ethos is about places people love – always has been, always will be.
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