Tom Clarke – Head Chef at Michelin starred restaurant L’Ortolan in Reading, UK
Tom Clarke grew up in Essex and started developing a passion for cooking at an early age. He used to cook creations for his family, studied catering at the Colchester Institute, and now presents his cooking skills to guests of the Michelin-starred restaurant L’Ortolan. Read on to learn more about his culinary journey.
A chef portrait of Tom Clarke
Tom, today you are a Michelin-star Head Chef at L’Ortolan in Reading, UK. You grew up in Essex, with a lot of passion for cooking. What inspired you to become a chef?
I love cooking, enjoy the different seasons.
As a young chef, you had the opportunity to work in the kitchens of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. What experiences did you have?
Precision whether I was dicing a shallot or chopping parsley. And to use more senses hearing the pomme maxim cooking.
Early on in your career as a chef, you were passionate about French cuisine and worked in French restaurants like Le Talbooth and Le Maoir aux Quat Saisons in the UK. What fascinated you about French cuisine?
French cuisine has a very strong history and that was installed upon me.
To broaden your knowledge of French cuisine, you worked in France in the 2-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Strato and in the legendary L’Oustau de Baumaniere. To what extent did French cuisine in France differ from your previous experience in French restaurants in the UK?
I would say simplicity. They have amazing ingredients and know how to treat them right without going over the top.
The L’Ortolan has a great tradition. With the 37 years after opening, 5 Michelin starred chefs worked her.
Honestly, how great was the pressure to uphold the high quality of the kitchen and even become the 5th Chef with the Michelin Award at L’Ortolan?
A lot of pressure but I just put my head down and kept going try to be better than yesterday.
After so long a tradition of L’Ortolan, how did you combine the culinary line of the restaurant with your own way of cooking?
Try to improve on the food keep learning and bring more in a visual sense.
Modern French cuisine with influences from around the world. – Tom Clarke’s way of cooking
You and L’Ortolan are committed to the highest quality of food. Are you in close contact with some local and smaller producers?
Yes, we do our dairy supplier is local and were we get our eggs. Some meat we do but if we need to go further to get better quality we will.
Since the seasonal kitchen is part of your kitchen – how do you overcome the winter months? What do you offer in winter?
Yes, we do. We sore the best of what is in season.
Something like fillet of beef, braised oxtail, smoked pomme puree.
It is not your primary goal; but it is known that you also offer great vegetarian menus. Can you share one of your favourite dishes with us?
Yes, one that comes to my mind is a sand carrot pressing with tarragon and mustard.
How often do you change your menu?
Most the time we change every 2 months but there would be few changes within that as there is so much to offer within a season.
Where do you get your inspiration for new creations?
Seasons dictate what we do but rest can come from anywhere. Whether from something us have seen or something us have done before or just experimenting.
Does fusion cuisine play a role for you?
Yes, I love Japanese cuisine so try to use it were we can.
The common trend in different countries is the new interpretation of traditional dishes in a new and modern way. Which English dish would you give a chance for a new interpretation? And in what way?
I have done one before the main ingredients were mackerel, mint and anchovies.
We also introduced fennel and cucumber and just played thing the cooking methods and textures.
Can your share some of your latest creations with us?
Seared scallops | maple glazed pork belly | artichoke
Beef tartar | confit egg yolk | charcoal mayonnaise
Pan fried sea bream | pickled fennel citrus | sauce vierge
Spice honey glazed duck breast | beetroot | raspberry
Thank you very much, Tom!
Are you also a passionate chef? Tell us your story!
Show us your restaurant! Register free of charge and present yourself.
Find more exciting chef portraits here!