Five minutes with… George Scott-Toft

The chef at Yopo at The Mandrake Hotel talks tiger’s milk, olive oil and Otis Redding

Food and Drink 17 Apr 2020

Chef George Scott Toft

Chef George Scott Toft

Can you tell us what you learned about food on your recent journey through South America?

Each country we visited was very different in many aspects, but all three countries (Argentina, Chile and Peru) shared certain elements that were instantly recognisable as South American cuisine – ceviche, and empanadas, for example. There were also a few surprises in each country along the way.

What dish or flavours from your travels do you think Londoners would be surprised by?

The leche de tigre recipe – ‘tiger’s milk’ – a liquid used to marinate seafood – that we use for our sea bass crudo is very unusual, as it combines a lot of red onion along with lime and orange, which gives it a sweet and savoury character.

And how have you incorporated what you’ve learned into the menu at Yopo?

Some of the best restaurants we visited in South America were very unassuming, and subsequently this element of surprise and freshness is something we hope to reflect in each of Yopo’s dishes.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given in your career and why?

I have had so much great advice during my career, but the one that always pops up is “go with your gut feeling”.

Who is your role model and how have they influenced you in your work?

I have had several role models over the various stages of my career, but two chefs who have significantly influenced my cooking are Pierre Gagnaire, from whom I learnt that classical cuisine can still be modern, and Christophe Pelé, whose bold flavour combinations and cooking techniques are always inspiring.

What ingredient can you not live without and why?

Good olive oil, because it can single-handedly transform any dish.

What item, apart from your passport, can you not travel without?

Headphones, so I can always listen to good music.

Where is your favourite place to eat in London?

Bright, in East London – it always has a relaxed atmosphere, honest food, an excellent wine list and friendly service.

What do you like to do on a day off?

Visit our local farmers’ market with my wife.

Apart from food, what are your biggest passions?

Cycling – being on my bike is great for keeping fit and clearing my head.

If you could choose anyone from today or history, who would be your ideal dinner party guest and why?

Otis Redding, because his music is timeless – I remember my parents playing it at home when I was a kid.

George Scott-Toft is the chef at Yopo, the restaurant at The Mandrake Hotel, 20-21 Newman Street, London, W1T 1PG, The restaurant and hotel are currently closed but check Yopo and The Mandrake Hotel’s Instagram for updates and lockdown inspiration.