We sit down with Tom Adams, the co-founder of Pitt Cue, as he gives me the low-down on his restaurant.
Starting modestly on the banks of the Thames in 2011, the guys have grown the business through their creative yet simple approach to great tasting, honest food that is crucially sourced from their own farm.
Where did it all begin with Pitt Cue?
It was formed with a bit of luck; there wasn’t a predetermined plan. I was working in a restaurant and my head chef knew someone that needed help at a new café. Jamie (the co-founder of Pitt Cue) was eating there one day and after we got chatting he said he wanted to do a food truck. I said well I can cook.
Have you always had a background in food and knew it was something you wanted to do?
I didn’t go to culinary school. I would have liked to and actually even applied at one point but in the end I just went straight into a kitchen. I took the normal route, starting on the bottom rung, washing dishes. And it just so happened that along that pathway Pitt Cue happened.
Would you say that the environment you grew up in helped to inspire your ambition in life and with Pitt Cue?
I’ve always been into cooking from a young age; we had pigs at home. Mum butchered stuff, we made bacon, we had a smoker, we had chickens. We always did it that way. It was a natural thing. My brother makes wine. It’s always been a massive part of the family. Doing it from scratch was embedded in me and that’s why now my biggest interest is the processes before the restaurant. Rather than the cooking and the dining, my biggest love is the farm and what comes before. I think that’s what my family is, we’re all farmers. My brothers not a sommelier, he’s a wine maker. And as I grow older I think that’s where my position lies, not the chef, I want to be the farmer. I want to complete the connection between farm and restaurant.
How important is it for you to be fully immersed in the whole process?
Not only is it super important as it’s the only way you have absolute 100% knowledge of what’s coming to the kitchen, you know its good and you trust it; but for me it’s the achievement and the excitement of that goal. The most satisfying thing is knowing that you’ve been involved in every step of the process. You’re not just the finisher, the executer; you’re responsible for everything and I think that’s a nice thing.
You clearly have an appreciation for your pigs and a careful consideration and use for every part of the animal. Is this vital for you?
Absolutely. For the same reason I’m obsessed with using the hairs from the pigs for the flies that I fish with. It’s the same principle, no ones going to know about it, but as long as it happened that fulfills something in me. We don’t put on the menu that everything is from our pigs but we don’t have to if it satisfies us then that is fine. We use our own animals to not only guarantee quality but for our own satisfaction. A good restaurant will be using someone that they themselves would source. It is super important because a well-kept animal and a happy animal is gonna taste better. The chef wants their product to be better but also the knowledge that they’re doing the right thing.
What inspires your menu?
There is no plan, it’s a case of what we can get in. It’s all about getting by with the size of the restaurant and the kitchen. Creating a menu that’s small enough to justify having a restaurant, but not too big so that life is manageable. Everything is super tight and concise, cooked to order. We don’t have much, we can’t have much. It’s a thrift restaurant!
How important is having a strong and local network for the Pitt Cue?
Now we’ve got it up and running it all about the relationships with the people involved. Our farmer Charlie I would consider one of my best friends. The butchers I would consider them great friends as well. Its not just a case of necessity, it’s become a way of life rather than a part of an order sheet. It’s ingrained in me now. If you took away Cornwall or the farm, I would be out. I don’t get enough satisfaction out of just cooking in London and that’s why I spend three days a week in Cornwall, I have to be down on the farm to get a sense of fulfillment, working with the animals and immersing myself in that environment.
What is the idea and inspiration behind your branding and logo?
A lot of it has been organic, its grown and happened. The artwork and logo is all from a friend who’s an artist. I’m lucky to have a network of people around me who enjoy good things; they’re lead by product, not financial gain. It’s the same with Charlie the farmer, the butchers, you guys (Red Wing Heritage), its nice to be things with like-minded people and do it well. They might not necessarily be interested in food but there’s a similar aesthetic behind it.
I have no reason to own three pairs of boots, but there’s a joy about wearing something that’s been made by someone who cares. We don’t have to make all our own bacon, but there’s a joy about doing it right. The customer might not know, it probably loses us lots of money but if its righteous then its worth pursuing.
Is it important in business to be original and to carve your own path?
I think you’ve got to stick to your guns with business. Don’t be different tot try and be different, if you’re doing something and it feels right, you gotta do it. You shouldn’t follow any plans. If you’ve got a passion and something gives you that gut feeling; that’s what you have to pursue. Pig farming has been done before, restaurants have had their own animals before; but if it just feels right to you, you’ve gotta do it. My brother has started making the wine for the restaurant, and of course restaurants have made their own wine before, but if you can enjoy the project and get something out of it then that’s the most important thing.
Do you still feel excited and ambitious for the future?
I am. We need to kick on. Our current site is too small. I would like to focus on the farm and get that even more solid. We need to do something new for sure; it’s just a case of when it feels right and when I’ve got the energy. For now I want to spend more time on the farm working on new sausage recipes.
Update on Pitt Cue Co. New site at 1 THE AVENUE, DEVONSHIRE SQUARE, LONDON, EC2M 4PYP opens this February.
Do you prefer Winter or Summer?
That’s a tough one. You can’t beat sitting by a pub fire in Winter but Summer in Cornwall is something else. I’d go for Spring if anything. The countryside is full of energy as its all about to kick off and everything is started to bud.
Describe Red Wing boots in 3 words:
That’s tough, I don’t think 3 words could do them justice: Changed. My. Life. But I really think they have, before this I was wearing a rough boots on the farm and having to change when I came back into town. But now I have one boot for everything.