We Grill – Peter Lloyd
Peter Lloyd gained his first head chef position at the tender age of 23 and earned an impressive 2 Rosettes. Since then, the British chef has become famous for his interpretation of Asian cuisine; travelling the world as a guest chef and appearing regularly on TV. He has just opened his first restaurant in London, Sticky Mango.
Tell us about Sticky Mango…
Having my own restaurant was always important to me. When Spice Market in London – where I was working as executive chef – closed down in March this year, I knew it was the right time. I felt confident and mature enough that with all the experience I had gained I was finally able to present my own interpretation of Asian cuisine. I got a great location on the Southbank at Waterloo, across from the ITV studios, and not only did I want a cheeky, quirky name, but also something that represented a British chef cooking Southeast Asian street food – and it is an abbreviation of one of my classic street food dishes Sticky Mango Rice, so it was perfect! I have a team of seven and we do around 60 covers a day, but have the possibility to expand if we need to.
Why is Asian cuisine so popular?
Most of the successful restaurants in London are Asian-influenced and more and more of these restaurants are coming into the marketplace because it’s a cuisine most people love, but aren’t confident cooking at home. The style of service and the way you eat Asian food is all about sharing; it helps you engage with family, friends or colleagues so suits lots of occasions. There is always going to be room for fine dining but people are wanting more of a casual, fun dining experience and that’s what Asian restaurants offer.
What is your career history?
I started as an apprentice at Forte Hotels and then moved to be commis chef at The Dorchester. From there I moved to RSJ Restaurant where I worked my way up from chef de partie to head chef where I gained my 2 AA Rosettes. Thanks to chef Ian Stabler I really learned how to cook there; he taught me how to understand the flavour of food and develop a menu. I was head chef at The Room Restaurant and Simpsons in the Strand before moving on to be a private chef to Sir Anthony and Lady Bamford aboard their yacht! One year later I moved to BANK restaurant as head chef before becoming executive chef at City Inn Westminster, then at the Sanderson Hotel – which is where I had my first experience of cooking Asian cuisine – before moving to the Spice Market at the W Hotel.
What attracts you to Asian cuisine?
When I joined the Sanderson my experience was in British and European cuisine. The hotel had a Malaysian restaurant called Suka that we were supposed to be turning into French tapas but that never came off so with no real knowledge of Malaysian cuisine I had to learn fast! Thanks to reading and travelling, I began to understand the cuisine and it opened up a whole new world of flavours – it was like a new beginning for me; like starting my career again. I started to understand the concept of Asian food and coupled with my experience of knowing how to cook food, I put the two together to develop my own style – and I’ve never looked back!
Your favourite restaurant?
I actually have two; Kiin Kiin in Copenhagen and Issaya in Bangkok offer the perfect balance of modern interpretations of classic dishes. I admire the creativity that goes into the styles of service, the presentation of food and combinations of flavours. They have set a benchmark for the standard of Asian cuisine – and that’s what I aspire to.
Where did your love of food come from?
I had a very simple upbringing with food; I grew up on egg and chips and I couldn’t even spell vinaigrette never mind know what it was! My father was in the Army so I grew up in Germany. I never really took school too seriously, so when I left I joined the Army’s YTS scheme and opted for the cooking skill thanks to a friend’s recommendation. I’d always loved my food so thought that was a good start! I made it through to the finals of a YTS competition and that inspired my motivation and proved I could be successful. A year later, we moved to Woolwich and I gained an apprenticeship with Forte Hotels and I haven’t moved from London since.
What advice would you give to an aspiring chef?
Be patient. Becoming a good chef is very much like building a house; if you don’t have a strong foundation you won’t stay up. It’s crucial you vary your experience – from Michelin restaurants to hotel kitchens – each place will help you develop your own style.
Hobbies outside the kitchen?
I’m an avid Manchester United fan. I try and watch them as much as possible. In fact, I was extremely fortunate to be the chef who cooked for David and Victoria Beckham on their first date at RSJ restaurant. I love watching Formula 1 too, and I also spend as much time as possible with my two daughters.
Do you have a festive menu?
Asian cuisine isn’t festive like ours so that is where the creativity comes in. I’ll use seasonal ingredients to give my dishes a festive twist; butternut squash flavoured with ginger syrup or crispy Brussel sprouts garnished with a chilli and tamarind sauce, for instance. Instead of a set course and individual dishes, our food is about sharing which makes it a perfect way to celebrate
during the festivities.