Five minutes with… Adam Rawson

The executive chef at London's new Standard hotel talks to Brummell about dashi, how to spot a good mescal and his love of Liverpool FC

Food and Drink 29 Aug 2019

Adam Rawson, executive chef at the new Standard hotel in King’s Cross

Adam Rawson, executive chef at the new Standard hotel in King’s Cross

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Keep things simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves. That was actually advice from Bjorn (van der Horst) when I was maybe 20 years old and it has always stuck with me. After that I still went and did a lot of crazy things, using chemicals and everything – I was a young chef and excited by that – but my food is really all about simplicity and sourcing great ingredients. It’s advice I give to chefs I train too – I like them to create specials but they always try and go that extra mile and put 10 things on a plate when a lot of the time you don’t need that, you just need to appreciate the ingredients for what they are.

Do you have a role model?

I don’t because I’ve worked in all kinds of different realms and when I finished learning everything I could in one I would always choose to do something completely different. I’d say I probably learned the most from Nuno Mendes when I spent three amazing years with him, but I’ve picked up a lot of different techniques from everywhere. I wouldn’t say he’s a role model, but I really respect him and his food.

What ingredient can you not live without?

Dashi [Japanese soup stock], I use it to season. I spent a bit of time in Japan and I found that I’d leave the meal feeling so much lighter. It’s quite a European thing to season with salt and it can be quite aggressive, it always makes me leave a meal feeling like I need to drink lots of water, but in Japan I never felt that once because they use dashi. I use seaweed or shiro [fish] dashi and I think it brings a really rounded flavour, and brings out the flavours in the other ingredients. It’s my number-one go-to at the moment.

What do you always take with you when you travel?

I don’t take anything. I don’t even do any research before I travel. I like to meet the locals when I go somewhere and get inspiration that way and I like to get out and explore the city and smaller towns. I think when you research too much your expectations are always a little bit higher and walking into the unknown is so much more enticing, right? So I guess what I always take with me is an empty suitcase to bring back the products and ingredients, wines and spirits you’d never normally find in the UK that I can have a play with when I get home.

Do you have a favourite spirit that you’ve discovered when travelling?

I think mescal is the one that took me back the most, and sake. Before I went to Mexico I thought mescal was super smoky, just an overkill of smoke, and I found out when I was there that in fact most of the exported mescals are the cheapest and quickest ones to make, which means they take on a lot more smoke. In Mexico, most of the mescals aren’t even smoky, they feel like really good tequila that has a hint of smoke. Similarly, the sake in Japan really tastes amazing, with hints of pineapple and passion fruit; it was probably my favourite drink when I was there. I brought 13 bottles back, but they didn’t last too long.

Where are your favourite places to eat in London?

I have a two-year-old son so I don’t get to eat out a lot. When I do I go for places I know and can take a few mates to and share some dishes. I really like My Old Place, the Chinese restaurant near Liverpool Street, it’s great. I just love big flavours. The lamb skewers are so good and only £1 each.

What do you do on a day off?

I spend time with my son – we walk around and go to the park, just normal stuff really.

What are your biggest passions outside of cooking?

Football, I’m a hardcore Liverpool fan.

If you could invite anyone dead or alive to a dinner party, who would it be?

I don’t know anything about celebrities or famous people. But maybe the Liverpool team, they’re my celebrities! Or my son when he’s my age, I can’t wait for him to start trying my food.

The Standard London, 10 Argyle Street, WC1H 8EG;