He worked at two Michelin-star restaurant The Square, before opening his own place, EC3. Now he’s cut all ties, embarked on a new venture and opened his new restaurant 1251 in Islington, London. The Staff Canteen editor, Cara Houchen, chats to James Cochran, who’s recently appeared on Great British Menu, to chat about what makes him tick in our new ‘One To Watch’ chef series.
What has been the best moment of your career so far? I think, to be honest, my new project I’ve been working on right now – 1251! I have departed James Cochran EC3 completely and for me being able to design the restaurant, kitchen and build a team around me has been a long time coming. I was never able to have full control of James Cochran EC3 so it’s exciting times ahead for me.
Describe one of your earliest food memories. Has to be Sunday roasts. Without fail every Sunday the family would come together and it was always good vibes and laughter.
What do you have in your fridge right now? Sriracha. I have that on everything. It’s my go-to sauce.
If you could have dinner with any chef, dead or alive, who would it be and why? Grant Achatz. I would love to pick his brain on how he thinks and designs his menu. I’m always amazed by everything he does.
What’s your signature dish and why? My new signature dish is going to be kid goat for two with Scotch bonnet jam, black-eyed pea dahl, roti, burnt lime, cucumber and pineapple salad. Kid goat is not a common meat used in the UK. I’m taking ingredients from my mum, she was the one that got me into cooking, so it’s paying homage to her.
Tell us something about yourself that we might not know? I once met Whitney Houston on a beach and she made me cry.
Which restaurant (not your own) did you last eat at? Coal Rooms in Peckham (banging).
What one piece of advice would you pass on to young chefs? Ask as many questions as you can because you never stop learning.
How do we solve the chef shortage? The restaurant industry looks like it’s not slowing down and we are in a crisis, it’s so hard to find chefs who are passionate these days. All they seem to care about is the money. If I can be honest, in my day, you had to graft to prove yourself and along the way you picked up the tools and skills to move forward. Is there a shortage of chefs or just good chefs? Or should we cap the amount of restaurants opening in London?
Who would you choose as your chef to watch? Tom Brown, the chef is on fire right now!
All images by Jessica Jill Photography