27.2.15

INTERVIEW with CARL CLARKE

Following on from my interview with Michel Roux Jr at the end of the last year I've decided to start a series of chef interview posts.

Today's chef is Carl Clarke, who was named one of London's most influential people by The Evening Standard. Carl has popped up all over London with ventures including Rock Lobsta, English Laundrette, God Save the Clam and Disco Bistro EC4 & N1C - two of which I went to when they were open. Now he's back with his first permanent restaurant, Chick n Sours, which opens in Dalston on the 17th of April. Here's what he had to say when I asked him a few questions...

1. Who has inspired you the most in your career?

I've met so many brilliant people, from chefs to artists to amazing producers, and just being able to work and learn from them on various  projects has been inspiring in itself. (Carl used to DJ at Turnmills before turning his hand to cooking - one of my old hangouts...!!)

2. What is the first thing you remember cooking?

I never used to cook or be interested in food as kid. I was from a working class Irish family and food was just sustenance rather than pleasure. I became a chef really out of the necessity of eating. The love came later.  I guess it was cooking toast on a fork in the dark with my sister on an electric fire. Quite a risky way of cooking toast!!

3. What is your favorite restaurant in London?

I've got so many for so many different reasons so its hard to say. My favorite Indian is called The Regency Curry Club in Queensbury. An old boozer that does next level Bengali grills and has their own larger brewed for them. (I'd never heard of the Regency Club but definitely want to try it now).

4. What is your can't live without kitchen gadget?

Thermomix

5. What your top 3, can't live without, ingredients?

- Gochujang (a savoury and pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chilli, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt).
- Smoked beef dripping.
- Ssamjang (a thick, spicy paste used with food wrapped in a leaf in Korean cuisine. The sauce is made of doenjang, gochujang, sesame oil, onion, garlic, green onions, and optionally brown sugar).

6. What's your newest ingredient discovery?

Toban Djan (a fermented paste that combines hot chillies with broad beans) & yam bean (white flesh of the root can be eaten cooked or raw. Crisp, moist, and slightly sweet, the flesh draws comparison with that of the apple).

7. What is the most difficult food intolerance to cook for?

I'm not quite sure really. I can't keep up with all the new intolerances!!

8. What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to start a career as a chef?

Learn to love the amazing produce that we have in this country, its an important part of becoming a great chef. Have respect for the producers and their produce and the rest will follow. (THIS is why I cook and what my own cooking is all about - absolutely 100% agree with Carl here).

9. What do you make of supper clubs? Have you ever been to one?

I've done quite a few pop ups in my time, but the idea of sitting in someone's front room having dinner weirds me out a bit so no, not really. (Carl - you should come and try my one - I think I'd change your mind...!)

10. And finally - what's the plan for you in 2015, and beyond? Where are you currently working, and do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline?

I'm currently just about to open my first full time restaurant called Chick n Sours. It's basically built on my obsession with fried chicken and we are going to do awesome sours cocktails. So that's going to keep me busy for most of next year but I can't wait!! It will be open in April.

Thanks so much for your honest and interesting answers Carl.

To try Carl's cooking, do check out Chick n Sours once it opens - I've had fantastic food at both of Carl's pop ups that I've been to, and am really looking forward to trying the new menu of  free-range, herb-fed fried chicken; mouth-watering sides such as pickled watermelon and peanut salad, and grilled kimchi with Japanese mayo and crispy chicken skin; sour cocktails made exclusively for the restaurant by Sam Dunne, formerly of The Rotary and Milk & Honey; locally brewed beers and Willys Cider from Chase Farm; and Weetabix or white chocolate and miso soft-serve ice-cream creations.

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14 comments

  1. That food looks right up my street. Plus anyone who names a venture 'Rock Lobsta' gets a massive tick in my book!! Great interview xx
    www.lovedbylaura.com

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    1. Rock Lobsta was fab, we had deep fried beer cheese there mmmmm!!!

      Rosie xx

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  2. What a great idea for a series! I loved this interview (and completely agree with his response to question 8 too!). His restaurant sounds amazing! Fried chicken and cocktails? Yes please! Can't wait for it to open! xxx

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    1. Thanks Miranda - I love being able to get the inside scoop from some of the chefs I really respect - lots more in the series coming soon :) We should go check out Chick n Sours together.

      Rosie xx

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  3. Nice place and amazing food! Service at Boston restaurants was fast and everything came out fairly quick. If you're in the area stop by. The space is very decadent and has the usual elegant feel. Great for when relatives come to visit.

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  4. Really enjoyed reading this I love knowing who has inspired a chef. Carl should definitely come to one of your pop ups I am sure you would change his mind. Chick and sours sounds like a great new venture so will watch out for that Lucy x

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    1. Hehe!! I think he should come to one of mine too!! Working on it...!!

      Rosie xx

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  5. Sounds like he has a great concept going and such a fascinating back story on growing up in. I love the story of him and his sister toasting bread on the electric fire. Just makes you think that people really can do anything they put their mind to!

    Katie <3

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    1. It's such a great (but slightly terrifying) story!!

      Rosie xx

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  6. Sounds amazing!! Definitely checking his place out when I move back to London!
    I've seen a thermomix, but don't own one. They look so intimidating but awesome at the same time!

    {Teffy's Perks} X

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    1. I reckon you're going to have a pretty long list by the time you get back Teffy! So many exciting places for you to try :)

      Rosie xx

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  7. Delicioso! Great questions - all ones that I'd never think of a regret not asking!

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    1. Thanks Emma - I'm keeping my questions the same for all the chefs I'm interviewing as I think it's really interesting reading the different answers they all have to give. Keep an eye out for more interview posts soon.

      Rosie xx

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