Not many chefs have had the year Adam Thomason has. Executive Head Chef at Restaurant Associates, Adam was presented with the opportunity to enter into three of the most prestigious culinary competitions; a privilege offered to few in the industry. On top of all this is the day job, overseeing dining operations at Deloitte’s London offices, a kitchen already seeing a pipeline of exceptional talent start to build.
The titles in questions include - National Chef of the Year 2017 (NCOTY), which he came second in; he then received a Master of Culinary Arts; and most recently entered to qualify to represent England in the Bocuse d’Or, when he came in second place.
So how has a young man, still aged just 31 years of age, already achieved so much? What have been the steps which have led Adam to this position?
“My path into cooking follows a similar path to many chefs; I had always enjoyed cooking and I wanted a vocation within more ‘hands-on’ skills”, Adam says of his entry into the industry. Sat Bains had just opened his now 2 star Michelin star restaurant in Nottingham so Adam wrote and asked for a week’s work experience, from which a part-time job followed. This was all from the age of 15 to 18.
“At 18 I took the brave decision to pack up and move to Denmark. The Scandinavian food scene was on the rise and it just seemed like the place to be. I joined as a commis chef at a restaurant called Sankt Annæ before moving on to the one Michelin star establishment Formel B, becoming Chef de Partie.”
Adam is nothing but positive about his time abroad. “Denmark is an amazing place to cook in and I encourage any young chef to spend some time there if possible. From catching your own seafood from the harbour to being part of a food scene driving the use of sustainable, seasonal produce, it is a fantastic culinary country.”
With every step Adam grew his knowledge of not only the food but also the kitchen, with its different dynamics and characters, absorbing the information to make himself the talented chef and leader of the kitchen he is today.
Further stints in the UK and Denmark saw Adam join Restaurant Associates for the first time as Sous Chef, before heading back into the public facing restaurant scene, taking his first Head Chef role at the tender age of 24 in August 2011. These new experiences and challenges, at a fairly young age, meant that at the age of 27, having already had 11 years of experience in the kitchen, Adam was able to take his current role of Executive Head Chef at Deloitte in the Compass fine dining sector, Restaurant Associates.
It is this background of different cultures and experiences which has led Adam to the year that has just passed. The highlight certainly is the Master of Culinary Arts, the undisputed mark of a talented chef who is highly respected within the industry. In the final, Adam had to prepare two main courses, one in the form of a platter, for blind tasting from the distinguished judging panel. While dishes are predominantly judged on taste, appearance and complexity, finalists also had to impress on further aspects such as food waste reduction, communication and attitude in the kitchen; simply put they are looking for the chefs skilled in all facets of the kitchen.
Further experiences from the competition stick in the memory for Adam. “The Bocuse d’Or qualification was another surreal moment. On the day we [Adam’s commis chef was fellow Deloitte chef and Compass Junior Chef of the Year winner Faye De Souza] pulled out all the stops producing two amazing dishes in a three and a half hour period. The whole process has been hugely beneficial to me and I know Faye will be able to kick on and use this experience for her own betterment.”
For Adam the culinary accolades aren’t purely for glory, preferring to use the experiences as ways to learn new aspects of cooking. He also hopes to act as a source of inspiration to the other chefs in his kitchen; Chef De Partie Faye is already a competition winner within Compass while his other CDP Luke Hastings came second in Restaurant Associates’ internal skills competition.
Speaking on how Adam has helped her progress, Faye is full of praise for her head chef. “Getting to work under Adam every day is a pleasure but also a privilege – he is always trying to improve you as a chef as well as giving you the tools needed to succeed. His love for cooking is clear and it rubs off on you too.”
Adam has had a brilliant year, both within competition and his kitchen. It is a testament to his success that he was named by his fellow peers Restaurant Associates’ Chef of the Year for 2017. His trio of competition achievements have pushed him to new challenges and thus in turn has had an effect on the chefs around him, driving the other chefs in his kitchen to improve their culinary skills. Here’s to a bright looking 2018!