6/06/2019 | News
National Finalist for Young Chef of the Year
Q and A with Thomas Pill, Chef at Farnham Castle and finalist as Young Chef of the Year by the Craft Guild of Chefs
Q: What are your food memories growing up?
A: I was a really fussy eater when I was little but I soon learnt that I either tried the food in front of me or went hungry. All my family are big foodies. My dad, mum and my gran were huge influences as I was growing up. My gran had a smallholding in Gloucestershire and I remember these Famous Five like holidays with her. We’d go to the egg man for eggs, the cow lady for milk, the plum lady for fruit … you get the picture! Gran also taught me to bake bread – even now, I bake her sourdough recipe. Dad was a great home cook. He made fantastic roast dinners and we always had a pudding decorated with raspberries or blueberries or something. I always remember those when I’m garnishing desserts at the Castle with fruit.
Q: What is your favourite food to cook at home?
A: I love cooking fish courses. My favourite that we do at the Castle is a torched mackerel served with a toasted plum and pickled vegetables. When I’m trying to impress, I’d probably opt for a filled pasta like tortellini, followed by a good steak.
For family and friends though, I love to barbeque. At the Castle, we have some fabulous outdoor options which guests love. We have an oyster bar which always goes down well. Another favourite is the pizza oven where guests can choose their toppings and moments later their pizza is cooked in front of them. My favourite is the fire-pit barbeque though. It’s a fabulous piece of theatre. I enjoy experimenting with flavours and using great local produce.
Barbeques are so versatile and perfect for catering for lots of people as it suits everyone – there are some great vegetarian options as well as meat. The secret is to give a depth of flavour with marinades, spices and herbs and also creating all the side dishes. It’s great for just chatting as well as you can cook with your guests around you. My dad and I will often grab a couple of beers and pop some steaks on to cook as we have a boys’ catch up together.
Q: What would you recommend from the menu at Farnham Castle?
A: Oh wow. There are so many. From the new spring/summer menu, one of my favourites is a trio of pork with pig cheek, pork belly and loin. We serve that with a salted caramel apple puree, buttered new season root vegetables, a potato gratin and shard of spiced crackling. It just shows how versatile meat can be and the very different tastes and textures you can get from different cuts from the same source.
I also enjoy putting together the surprise courses we offer at the Castle. We do a range of sorbet shots. My favourite is a blood orange sorbet topped with prosecco and some fabulous fizzing raspberry jellies – it’s great to hear the guests when they’re first presented and then when they taste it!
Q: Who are your food influences?
A: I get really inspired by chefs like Philip Howard at Elystan Street. I have his books and you can see why he won two Michelin stars when he was at The Square in Mayfair.
Simon Lloyd, Head Chef at Farnham Castle is my role model – I see him more than my own family! We’ve been working together for nearly five years and I have learned so much from him. As a team we all work really hard but we are also a really close family.
Q: Where would you go out to eat?
A: I like casual relaxed dining when I go out. Côte Brasserie is very consistent and they serve great red wines. I recently took my mum to the Black Rat in Winchester (the only restaurant in Hampshire with a Michelin Star) and that was great experience. I’d love to go to Elystan Street and Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers.
Q: You clearly enjoy working at Farnham Castle, Where would you see yourself if you ever decided to move on?
A: Every year we have a family holiday in Saltern Sands, Devon. We all love surfing and it is one of the best spots in the country for waves. My favourite escape from the stress of the kitchen is sitting on the beach in the evening, beer in hand and watching the surfers. Surfing is really hard work and you’re always starving when you come back up the beach. You have to carry your board, strap it up on the car, get changed etc before you head home. I would love to have a food truck on the beach doing great simple food like barbeques and burgers that would satisfy hungry surfers, tourists and families on the beach.
I’d also love to get involved in teaching. I was lucky, my family cook from scratch but some kids don’t get to develop that passion for great produce. I’ve not been to catering college or had any formal training myself – everything I’ve learned I’ve picked up from Simon and my colleagues. At school, I was never exposed to good food or the bonds, excitement and camaraderie of working in a kitchen. It would be great to get more kids involved in what they eat and share how important your colleagues in a kitchen become.
Q: What has been your highlight at Farnham Castle?
A: Actually it was quite recently. We were catering a wedding for 90 guests and the menu was quite complicated with several courses and dishes with lots of elements to them. The whole kitchen had been grafting for a couple of days to prep and perfect each sauce, each canape etc. As we were getting towards the end of service, the Best Man popped his head into the kitchen and said the Bride and Groom wanted to thank us. We were a sweaty horrible mess as we trooped into the Great Hall where we hold host of our wedding breakfasts. The Groom thanked us during his speech and we could see this sea of contented faces and there was a huge round of applause. It means so much to know that you have made such an impact on so many people and contributed to a couple’s special day. I’m not ashamed to say I did have a tear in my eye – but that may have been sheer relief!
Farnham Castle Chef Protégé Nominated for Prestigious Industry Award
Local lad Thomas Pill of Farnham Castle, is one of three finalists in the Craft Guild of Chefs Award for Young Chef
Farnham Castle, 17 May 2019: Chef-de-Partie Thomas Pill is one of just three finalists for the prestigious title of Young Chef Award to be announced at the Craft Guild of Chefs annual awards night to be held at the London Hilton Park Lane on Thursday 06 June 2019.
Born and raised in Camberley, Tom was originally studying Business and Economics at college when his passion for food was re-ignited when he took a kitchen porter job at the Rose and Thistle in Frimley Green. Coming from a family of keen home cooks and bakers, Tom then took a job as a kitchen casual at Farnham Castle. On his first day, the Head Chef Simon Lloyd, terrified him by telling him to peel 75kg of potatoes. Simon clearly saw potential in Tom and soon, he was allowed to set the garnish on some dishes for wedding breakfasts. The rest, as they say, is history. Tom has now progressed through the kitchen to become Chef-de-Partie.
Tom is in great company as previous winners of the prestigious industry award include April Partridge, currently at The Ivy, London and Tom Parker, head chef at the Michelin starred pub The White Swan in Fence, Lancs.
Farnham Castle is a multi-award-winning venue for Weddings, Meetings and Events with an outstanding reputation for delivering exceptional modern British cuisine. “Tom works exceptionally hard and is an essential part of the crew. His creativity, flair and eye for detail mean that he is already capable to lead his own brigade for some of our events. We are all immensely proud of him and to be a finalist in these awards is not only testament to Tom, but also our Head Chef Simon Lloyd and the whole kitchen team,” said Stephen Hamilton, General Manager of Farnham Castle.
The criteria for the award require the nominee to be under the age of 23 years on 31st May 2018 and have already shown a passion for the industry, excelling in their technical skills, developing a wide knowledge base, flair and commitment for their chosen path.
Alongside Thomas Pill, Farnham Castle; the other two finalists in the category are Rick Owens, Le Manoir aux quat’Saisons and Hannah Williams, Genuine Dining Company.