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Farm to fork: how one chef is revolutionising London's culinary world

With the British Isles boasting some of the world's best produce from land and sea, Welsh chef Tomos Parry is looking closer to home for his Michelin-starred restaurant's ingredients.

Words Harriet Hirschler

Around the world, there is a growing concern about where our food comes from. This, coupled with an appetite for first-class ingredients means that now, more than ever, chefs are taking the time to source the very best produce.

In the UK, ‘farm-to-fork’ may sound relatively new to diners in urban city centres, but for Anglesey-born Tomos Parry, working with local, seasonal ingredients has been ingrained in him from an early age.

‘You become quite connected to the land and sea when you grow up in North Wales,’ says Parry. ‘You see the immediate effect of good farming and how everything affects what goes onto the plate.’

At age 25, Parry moved to London from Cardiff, beginning his professional career at the River Café, Hammersmith, before heading up the kitchen at Kitty Fisher’s in Mayfair. In 2018, aged 32, Parry opened his first solo restaurant in Shoreditch. Named after a colloquialism for its signature dish of turbot, Brat celebrates the farm-to-fork ethos.

‘The UK definitely has some of the best produce in the world,’ says Parry, who sources Brat’s turbot and other seafood from the Devon and Cornwall coast and the majority of vegetables from Flourish Farm in Cambridge, one of the UK’s only farms to still use horses for all fieldwork.

‘It takes a couple of years of telling suppliers what you want to achieve before the restaurant opens,’ says Parry. ‘A lot of the process involves meeting and chatting with them. Even if someone has an amazing product, if the human relationship doesn’t work, it doesn’t go anywhere.’

Taking the time to build these relationships has certainly paid off for Parry. Six months after opening, Brat was given its first Michelin star. ‘I thought that would be a long-term goal,’ says Parry. ‘For it to happen very quickly, it was definitely a surprise.’

Although the restaurant doesn’t serve Spanish fare, Parry’s preferred apparatus – an open fire wood grill – is a nod to the Basque cooking traditions he so admires. ‘There is a restraint to cooking on an open fire,’ says Parry. ‘With other instruments, the focus can get lost quite easily. I want diners to feel that immediacy and energy of the produce and fire.’

You become quite connected to the land and sea when you grow up in North Wales. You see the immediate effect of good farming and how everything affects what goes onto the plate

Parry also finds parallels between the Basque community and that of his homeland. ‘The Basque Country has a similar relationship with mainland Spain as Wales does with the British Isles,’ says Parry. ‘They have their own language, culture and unique way of being. As a Welsh speaker, I can relate to that quite a lot.’

Ultimately, it’s the Basque community’s knowledge of how to get the most out of the land that resonates with Parry. ‘My grandparents would always cook on a fire with local, natural resources. And they weren’t cooking like this for culinary reasons. It was because they were so rural.’

Forging a closer relationship with British produce is something Parry also sees spreading nationwide.

‘Because Britain is an island, we have a huge tradition of brilliant produce, from grain to seafood to meat,’ says Parry. ‘I think the UK is starting to look more inwards now in what we do in connection with what we have.’