It's been a little while since my last chef interview post, but I'm back with a great one today (and I have a few more crackers lined up for the next couple of months).

Today's interview is with chef Neil Rankin of the Smokehouse and Bad Egg. Neil's worked across the culinary board - from top end restaurants with Michelin star chefs, to cooking at Nuno Mendes's infamous loft supper clubs but it was working with BBQ chef Adam Perry Lang that really set Neil on the path that's brought him to where he is now - taking the reins at Pitt Cue in 2011 and then heading up John Salt in Islington. Neil then opened his own restaurant, Smokehouse, in Islington, which now has a second site in Chiswick, and just so happens to be my current favourite restaurant.... because somewhere that serves Somerset goat tacos with chipotle aioli and green sauce, as well as deep fried rock oyster, beef dripping toast and smoked bone marrow, and has a child-free whisky room, and reindeer furs on the back of the restaurant benches, and sources the best quality produce you could want, just can't not be my favourite! Neil's food is about slow cooking and smoking, but also there's a huge Korean influence in a lot of his dishes - think slow cooked smoked lamb shoulder served with a sambal (chilli and prawn) sauce.

Neil is a busy man (especially during BBQ season!) but I managed to get my interview questions to him, and here's what he had to say....

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

Adam Perry Lang. He’s who taught me to cook meat and it set me on my path away from fine dining to what I do now.

2. What is the first thing you remember cooking?

I think it was omelettes when I was 13 or 14. I used to cook them when my mum was late back from work.

3. What is your favourite restaurant in London?

Quality chop house. Its pretty much flawless these days. 

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

A thermopen thermometer. I carry it with me everywhere

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

Salt, cracked black pepper and an abundance of herbs.

6. What's your newest ingredient discovery?

Tahini. Its not a new discovery but I’m using it a lot more than I used to and in different ways. 

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

Generally I’d say dairy but they are all pretty easy given enough notice. 

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

Cook as many cuisines as possible and be creative with your career choices. Don’t just hit the well known kitchens otherwise its harder to stand out and gain an individual style (I love this piece of advice and couldn't agree more with Neil - and you can see the influence all the cuisines that he's cooked in his food at the Smokehouse).

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

Been to them and done them. They’re fun and a great way to get your name out there. 

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 (that you don't mind my readers knowing about!)

Lots of stuff I can’t tell you about but I’ve got a book coming out early next year and doing lots of new stuff in the next 6 months (so exciting, I'll be first in the line to get Neil's book when it comes out!)

A huge thank you to Neil for taking part in my interview series, fascinating answers from a man who cooks some of the best food in London!

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  1. I don't know if it's his Scottish accent or they way he cooks, but I just think he is SO HOT! I just swoon every time I see him! :)

  2. An I nteresting read, I love knowing what chefs can't live with out especially favourite ingredients. Look forward to his book coming out Lucy x

    1. I think the can't live without question is the most interesting... always fun to find out what chefs top ingredients to cook with, or to eat, are.

      Rosie xx

  3. Thanks for sharing this Rosie, you had me at 'child free' room and the food sounds great too...I'll definitely keep an eye out for his book :-) xx

    1. Haha!! The child free room is so perfect for Sunday lunches, though the garden's pretty lovely at this time of year too. We should go when you're next in town?

      Rosie xx

  4. Love the interview - sounds like a lovely restaurant too. We'll have to check it out. AND I will get to one of your pop-ups at some point!

    Katie <3

    1. It's a brilliant restaurant - you must. They've got a branch in Islington too, which is meant to be just as good as this one :)

      Rosie xx


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