At just 26 years old, Tom Sellers certainly has a career that most chefs (and sane human beings) would kill for.
Since leaving school at 16 to wash pots in a pub kitchen, Tom has not only worked with some of the world’s most revered chefs, including Tom Aikens, Adam Byatt, and René Redzepi at restaurants such as Per Se, Trinity and Noma, but he’s also travelled all over the globe doing it.
After working in California, New York and Copenhagen, Nottingham-born Tom is finally back on British soil, and following the astonishing success of his pop-up, Foreword, last November, he’s setting down roots. All of that Michelin-starred magic seems to have rubbed off and he’s decided it’s time to open his own restaurant, Story, on Bermondsey’s Tooley Street.
We caught up with Tom (before he becomes indefinitely shackled to his stove) to find out exactly what to expect from his very first restaurant…
Having travelled abroad for work so regularly, what is it about London that keeps luring you back?
I feel at home here, in terms of produce. My food is built on the history of food within this country. I like to work with small growers and farmers with whom I can build a relationship. My menus are written around seasonality, using what’s best at that time of year and bringing each ingredient to life and drawing the flavours out.
You’ve lived and worked in California, New York and Copenhagen, as well as London. Which destination would you say has been your favourite and where did you go to relax when you weren’t in the kitchen?
New York. To relax I would go to Central Park. You’re always guaranteed good people watching.
What can diners expect from Story and how did your pop-up, Foreword, prepare you for this leap?
Diners to Story can expect a romantic Journey. They will be challenged, intrigued, and loved.
After doing my pop-up, Foreword, I knew that I was finally capable of running my own restaurant. We were fully booked every night and the atmosphere was incredible. The feedback was very positive and I was humbled by the response I got. The entire experience taught me so much and gave me the belief I needed to take the leap to look to open up my own place.
What’s your opinion on the London pop-up scene at the moment? Are there any current pop-ups that you particularly admire?
I think that currently it is so diverse – a fresh new scene. I admire anybody who is willing to put themselves out there and give it a go. It’s a clever way of trying out an idea and testing the water.
What drew you to Tooley Street as the ideal location for your new restaurant?
The site was a former Victorian toilet block. It has now been knocked down and a brand new building is being built. I like the romance and history of it. The area is great. Bermondsey has so much to offer, there is an established food scene with Bermondsey St, Borough Market and the Spa Terminus set up. Plus there is a large community of residents as well as businesses. You can see both Tower Bridge and the Shard from the site, two of the most iconic structures in London – one of the oldest and one of the newest.
With such an impressive list of culinary mentors to your name, how much do you think the people and places you’ve worked for/with have influenced your own style of cooking?
They have all influenced me in different ways at different stages in my life. Over all I would say it has influenced me enough to find myself in food and create my own personal style.
You’ve had the Foreword, and now we’ve almost got the Story – might we expect an ‘Epilogue’ at some point much (much) farther in the future…?
Yes, it will be the “never ending story”.