Meet the chef: Michael Thompson

Michael is head chef at Cub Hoxton – a luxury drinks-led dining experience born of a collaboration between Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) and Doug McMaster of Brighton’s pioneering zero-waste restaurant Silo

Tell us what inspired you to become a chef?
100% it’s down to my parents. I was determined to go to University but without a clear idea of what I wanted to study. They sat me down and made me realise that there were other options. I would watch ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’, walk into the kitchen at home and set myself the same tasks as the contestants had. I found pleasure in creating things and watching others enjoy them. It was pretty clear after that.

You’ve worked in some amazing restaurants including Fera at Claridges and Pollen Street Social, tell us about some of your career highlights to date?
Having the opportunity to learn from some seriously talented people has been truly inspirational. I’ve been supported through some of the most prestigious competitions in the country with the Annual Awards of Excellence and the Roux Scholarship. But the biggest highlight for me was launching my pop-up restaurant, fodder, and being recognised by Foodism when fodder was shortlisted as the most sustainable pop-up alongside Dan Barber’s wastED. Considering his book The Third Platebeing such an important part of my journey thus far, to get recognised in the same breath was a big deal for me.

What are your plans for the menu at Cub?
We want to create conversation between us and guests through each dish, discussing the ideas and practices of sustainability and bringing forward subjects that might not be widely talked about. Incorporating ways we can combat these problems – even debating whether they are problems that should exist in the first place. We are currently trying to highlight waste that exists within the food system. With that said, we always want the menu to be playful and light-hearted too, full of nostalgia and wow factors. Our suppliers that we work with are producing so much great produce at the moment, the menu will be changing frequently to mirror this.

Sustainability has always been at the heart of your cooking, tell us more?
I’ve worked with some truly inspirational people who have taught me the value of what we consume. I think it has really given purpose to my cooking. Knowing that I could have a positive impact on people and the world is something I never thought would be possible when I started. I thought that was just for politicians, but everyone has a part to play in what happens to the world so considering sustainable food practices is my contribution.

What’s your signature dish?
I’m not sure I have one, I feel like I’m still evolving. I’ve had some guest favourites though for sure. The fodder feast – a twist on the classic Feast ice lolly but with an artichoke and melilot ice cream, dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in toasted hazelnuts and popping candy for one. Then there was the ‘PBJ’ Sandwich – chicken liver parfait and rhubarb jam in brioche toast. The crab, tomato and elderflower combo has been a staple over the last few years and is coming into season now, so I’ll revisit that soon, but always with the desire to improve and build on what came before.

Favourite ingredient?
I think it has to be Apple Marigold or Mexican Marigold, which is a herb I got introduced to whilst working at Fera. It’s an incredible flavour balanced in sweetness and acidity. It can be used anywhere in a menu and stand out.

Favourite kitchen gadget?
I always seem to be in and out of a dehydrator so if that’s the case I must enjoy using it.

Kitchen soundtrack?
It has to be Jackmaster’s Tweak-A-Holics; we played those mixes at fodder A LOT. But if I was to pick a tune specifically it’d be Going Back to My Roots by Odyssey.

Chefs that have inspired you?
Growing up, it was Gordon Ramsay and the likes of René Redzepi and Dan Barber in terms of chefs in the public eye. But personally and professionally, Dan Cox who was the executive chef at Fera has to be mentioned. His connection to produce and the importance of respecting produce, is hard not to be infected by and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

Favourite restaurant(s) when you have some time off?
Bright is fantastic, great wine, great service, great food and always with great company. Forza win in Peckham on a Sunday afternoon is one of my favourite places to be the vibe is great and the team are awesome, go with a big group of mates to eat and drink well. Simple yet top quality!

Words of wisdom to your younger self?
Always take a deep breath before opening your mouth and write everything down.

What would you do if you weren’t a chef?
I think I would own a business, it was always one of my strongest subjects at school. Creating products that would be good for the planet, maybe biodegradable plastic.

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