Thomas Crocker is head chef at The Ivy on St Helen's Square in York. His CV also includes The Man Behind The Curtain in Leeds and The Devonshire Arms near Bolton Abbey.
Can you remember the first dish you ever cooked – and was it a success?
My mum is half-Italian so we regularly ate a lot of food you wouldn’t normally see as a child. The first recipe I cooked was meatballs at the age of 11. It was one of my nonna’s recipes and I remember putting the meat through the mincer and cooking everything from scratch. It was a success and from that moment my love of cooking started – that’s when I knew I wanted to be a chef.
Who is your inspiration in the kitchen?
My nonna; she was a fantastic cook and definitely inspired my love of food and cooking. She introduced me to a lot of different foods and ingredients from a young age, such as artichokes and homemade pasta. Whenever we went to see her, she would always put on a big spread of food.
What was the first recipe book you ever owned?
The French Laundry by Thomas Keller. It was recommended to me by the head chef in my first job. It has a great ethos behind it and makes you think about where food comes from and different cultures. It had a big impact on the kind of chef I wanted to be.
If, on a rare night off, you decided to organise a dinner party, which three people would you invite and why?
Thomas Keller, as his book has been a huge motivation to me so it would be great to talk all things food with him and show him some of my cooking skills. Gordon Ramsay would be another guest. I think he would be good fun and he’s very inspiring with what he has achieved as a chef. Finally it would be Bob Dylan. He is my favourite musician and I’d love to meet him.
When it comes to food, do you have any guilty pleasures and pet hates?
I absolutely love black truffle, it has a real taste of luxury about it. I worked in Paris for two years so it was something we ate quite a bit of. Whenever I eat it now, it brings back lovely nostalgia from my time there. Regarding pet hates, for me it’s important that chefs are always clean and presentable while we’re working around food.
Chefs are notoriously bad at eating well, so take us through a typical day’s food for you?
When I’m working, I always have eggs benedict if I’m overseeing breakfast or The Ivy hamburger any other time – it’s really delicious so it’s a regular favourite of mine! When I’m at home I usually start the day with a bacon and cream cheese bagel, followed by homemade tortellini or ravioli with a salad for lunch and for dinner I would have fish, potatoes and vegetables.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what’s the one ingredient you couldn’t do without and why?
It would have to be bacon; it’s a staple food that’s very versatile – you can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.