How to be a TV chef: Tom Kerridge
Fancy cooking in front of a camera for a living? BBC talent Tom Kerridge tells us how he made it as a TV chef and why it’s important to be yourself on set…
Countless TV appearances are only part of Tom Kerridge's long list of food accomplishments, which include publishing cookbooks and running the only pub in the country to be awarded Michelin stars. Here, he shares the secrets to his success, from choosing a stellar team to just getting out there and doing it...
How did you start out in the food industry?
I needed a job at the age of 18, ended up in a kitchen and instantly fell in love with the environment. Kitchens are the greatest places on earth. You meet all sorts of people from different walks of life. They are often quite boisterous and adrenaline-fuelled environments with everybody working for the same end result – trying to create some heartfelt, fantastic food for other people to enjoy. I just got my head down and enjoyed being me and have somehow ended up on television. I do take the television role as seriously as cooking in a top kitchen, but you do have to have fun too.
What do you like most about your job?
I haven’t got a job – I have a fantastic way of life. I’m so lucky to have found something that I want to be doing. I’m involved with great produce, I deal with fantastic people, I never ever have a ‘Monday morning’ feeling. However, as I’ve got a little older, I sometimes find the lack of sleep harder to deal with.
Your pub, The Hand and Flowers, is the only UK pub to be awarded two Michelin stars. What would you say has been the driving force behind your huge success?
Unquestionably the whole team. I have surrounded myself with brilliant individuals who have worked with me for such a long time. They care about this pub as much as I do and all we try to do is get a little bit better every single day. Eventually, it all adds up.
What is special for you about pubs as opposed to other food establishments?
Pubs represent Great Britain and are internationally recognised hospitality establishments that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the world. They had such poor representation for many years, but together, as a group, British pubs are pushing themselves forward, and they're now becoming recognised around the world as being great places to eat.
How is cooking on screen different to cooking in a professional kitchen?
You always have to remember that the guys behind the camera are making a television show. The food is not to be eaten by customers. It's more about the journey of where the food comes from, how it's cooked and how it visually looks on screen. Television cookery is there for entertainment and encouragement, which is different to just going out for a meal. Often live television is also very different to pre-recorded television. On a pre-record, you have the time and the opportunity to make something look and feel as refined as possible.
What would your advice be to young people looking to carve out a career in food and TV?
They're two very different jobs but for both of them my ultimate advice is just to enjoy doing what you do, then try to be the best at it that you can. I think if you aim for television, a lot lies in other people’s hands. With food, you can always control what you want to cook, in your restaurant, on your terms.
What kind of skills and personality traits does someone need to develop in order to become a TV chef?
I have no idea! All I do is just be myself. I think the most successful television chefs are the same – look at Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein.
Are there any relevant courses or qualifications that you would recommend pursuing or would you say that practical experience is more important?
For me, just getting out there and doing it is the best way that I gained experience. I’m much more of a do-er than a qualification gainer!
What is the biggest misconception that people have about being a TV chef?
That you get paid loads of money for being on television!
What’s the worst mistake that you’ve made while filming for TV?
To be fair, there haven't been that many as most of the programmes I’ve done have been pre-recorded so you can redo and change things.
Do you watch food programmes yourself, and if so, which ones do you particularly like or dislike? Is there anything you’d like to see more of on TV?
I'm a huge fan of Rick Stein. His enthusiasm for cookery, new ingredients and travel is second to none. More and more people are interested in what happens in the cooking process and where food comes from, so I suppose a consumer-led programme with answers would be great.
Feeling inspired? Whatever your skill set, we've got plenty of insight into kick-starting a career in the food industry:
Are you keen to make it as a TV chef or are you already established in the industry? Let us know in the comments below...