This Evening @ Devon House Tim Kensett For GoldenEye

Thursday, May 31, 2018

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Ahead of officially meeting him later this evening at the 20th staging of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards we reckon, like us at Thursday Food, you'd want to know a little about GoldenEye's new resident chef...


Thursday Food (TF): Tell us about Tim Kensett.


Tim Kensett (TK): I was born and raised on the south coast of England. I started cooking, as most people do, by tugging on the apron strings of my grandmother. Getting to lick the spoon from the cake mix was always the ultimate treat.

Upon leaving university, where I studied mathematical economics and business management (eek!!), it was time for me to become a man and get a full-time job! When deciding where to send my resumé, my mother's voice was echoing in my ear….. “make sure, whatever job you choose, that it is something you will enjoy, because you are going to have to do it for a long time!” The obvious choice here was cooking, and so it began…

I packed my bags, and headed to the biggest city I knew: London. I started work in the basement of a restaurant in Borough Market, London Bridge, called Roast. Under the guidance of Lawrence Keogh, a Marco Pierre White alumnus and multi-award-winning Michelin-starred chef, I began by preparing vegetables from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm, six days a week, with complete disregard for my private life (or my bed).

I spent two-and-a-half years cooking at Roast, rising through the ranks and learning every step of the way. By which time I was completely on the life of a chef, and wanted more. I left Roast, and was guided to another Marco Pierre White alumnus by the name of Phillip Howard, and his two Michelin-starred London restaurant, The Square. Having been classically French trained under Chef Keogh, my culinary education continued in the harshest of environments, cooking in the pressure pot of the kitchen at The Square, an unenviable task, looking back now. If I wasn't a man going in, it sure made me into one by the time I left.

A hardened London chef at the age of 25, and looking like a ghost from the lack of Vitamin D and sleep deprivation, I was offered the chance to run my own kitchen in west London. A gastropub called The Sands End was the next stop on my journey, and a chance for me to dabble in the art of kitchen management, as well as cooking. I took over the tiny kitchen team, and set about creating innovative British classics using my classical training, and my unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I was the proud recipient of a Michelin Bib Gourmand at The Sands End for my ever-changing seasonal menus, as well as being voted into the top 10 gastropubs in Britain by Food & Wine magazine.


Whilst cooking in west London, and delving into all things culinary, I found an urge to learn as much as I could about Italy and Italian food. There was only one restaurant in London at the time worth even considering when it comes to Italian food culture, and that was The River Café in Hammersmith. Owned and operated by an American lady, Ruth Rodgers, and her English business partner, Rose Gray, The River Café has been a Michelin-starred Mecca for Italian food lovers around the world for over 30 years.


During my six-year tenure at The River Café, I was exposed to a wealth of knowledge, not only on Italian food and ingredients, but an entirely different philosophy with regard to food culture. Almost monthly travels to Tuscany, Sicily, Piedmont, Venice, Siena and the Amalfi Coast opened my eyes to the endless allure of food, and what it is to be a cook, as opposed to a chef. I developed a whole new appreciation, and understanding, of how and what food means to people, what it means to a community, how it connects us all. This period in my career ingrained in me the type of cook I will always be: honest, forthright and never compromising. Like my grandmother.


Whilst cooking happily at The River Café, I was approached with an opportunity to run a restaurant in New York, an opportunity that the adventurer within me accepted. I suddenly found myself thrust into the 24/7 world of NYC as I took over the kitchen of an Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side, in Manhattan. I set about beginning a whole new period of learning and engulfing myself in yet another culture. Dealing with the ever-expectant New Yorker was a tough prospect, but the advantage being that it made me tougher also. The confidence to stand behind the food I cook, and why I cook the way I do, was exposed in the city that never sleeps.


It was whilst cooking on the Upper West Side that I came to know my rather persistent “neighbour” who lived next door to my restaurant. He, along with his even more persistent partner, seemed never to leave me alone when in town... so the story continues… Thank you, Chris and Marika!


TF: What's down the road?


The opportunity to be at Goldeneye, for any period of time, is an opportunity that anyone would be a fool to pass up. The sheer aura of the place is enough to take one's breath away. The saying goes, that standing on the shoulders of giants will help you reach the stars…… and the giants of GoldenEye don't get much bigger, so the stars are the obvious destination.


As with almost all food cultures around the world, the Jamaican food culture is built on necessity, a need for sustenance. At its core is a desire to live, to survive, to make the best of what is available, like the Jamaican people themselves. This philosophy is entrenched in the food we eat, and that is absolutely at the root of the food I bring to Goldeneye.


Too often food is overcomplicated, fussy and disguised. This isn't what food was meant to be. Food is supposed to be delicious, yes, but it will be naturally so, given the opportunity. We have access to some fantastic fresh produce from Pantrepant farm, some amazing local producers of artisanal cheeses, great local fish, fruits, herbs…… the list goes on. I am looking forward to being able to let these beautiful ingredients shine and become the best version of themselves, by treating them with respect, integrity and honesty.

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