Five minutes with… Ben Tish

The award-winning chef talks to Brummell about Sicilian cuisine, Paul Bocuse’s love of truffles and Valentino trainers

Food and Drink 27 Aug 2019

Chef Ben Tish
Lamb at Norma
Norma will serve Sicilian cuisine with Moorish influence
The interior of Norma

What can we expect from Norma when it opens in September?

Norma will open next month on Charlotte Street in a beautiful five-storey traditional townhouse and will serve Sicilian cuisine with Moorish influences. Pasta alla Norma will feature on the menu somehow, perhaps as a recurring special, but the main menu will be based around original Sicilian-inspired dishes.

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

Get your head down and work hard. Jason Atherton drilled that discipline into me years ago – you have to learn your craft with years of hard work and then you’ll do well. It’s the same advice I pass on to young chefs I train, with differing results. A lot of them don’t want to do the legwork and want to be on TV within three years of starting out, but you have to stick to working hard at a good restaurant to improve.

Who is your role model?

Restaurateur Oliver Peyton. Back in the day I worked with him at Coast and for me he’s an underrated visionary in changing the course of how restaurants work. He has shaped how London restaurants are today.

What’s an ingredient you can’t live without?

Lemon juice or sea salt.

What do you always take with you when you travel?

A list of good places to eat that I put together from asking friends, social media, looking at travel guides, and Time Out. I’ve discovered lots of great new places that way, including lots of excellent places off the beaten path.

What is your favourite place to eat in London?

I eat out a lot in London but the place I probably go to the most is the Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park. I go there all the time for breakfast; it’s very dog friendly and very clever. It has great branding and a great ethos.

What are your passions outside of cooking?

I love interior design stuff, making the house up. I also love fashion and clothes, Acne, Maison Margiela and Valentino trainers are some of my current favourites. I can spend hours browsing Mr Porter.

Who, living or dead, would you most like to invite to a dinner party?

Chef Paul Bocuse. He died recently and was a renowned party animal and gastronome – everyone said how entertaining he was. His food was very opulent and so I think I’d cook one of his classics for him – a whole Bresse chicken poached in champagne and finished with truffle and champagne sauce.

Do you have a favourite dish to cook and teach?

I like making and teaching students how to make fresh pasta. We will definitely have a lot of fresh pasta at Norma. One of my favourite fresh pasta dishes is a signature of mine: ricotta ravioli with pistachio and lemon.

Ben Tish is the culinary director of The Stafford London. Norma, which Ben will launch with The Stafford and is the hotel’s first off-site restaurant, is due to open in September.