24 July 2014

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Grill the chef: Jason Atherton


Jason Atherton 2013 - Chef_Director_Jason_Atherton_2013.jpgWe caught up with Jason Atherton to find out more about his latest venture, City Social, on the 24th floor of London’s Tower 42.

How would you describe City Social?
High up! It’s super sexy and very grown up.

When it comes to the menu, what are your personal highlights?
I know it doesn’t sound very exciting to most people but it’s the first time ever that we’ve put a soufflé on our menu, and also the first time we’ve put a pasta and rice section on the menu. I’ve always shied away from it because I didn’t want our restaurants to resemble anything I’d done in the past; I wanted to move forward. So, it’s the first time I’ve done this and I’m very excited to see how it is received.

City Social is your first London restaurant outside of the West End – has the City location made you approach it any differently?
Not really, no. It will be run with the same social approach where the focus is on our food and our service; we look after every customer exactly the same. The only real difference is the fact that we’re really excited to be in the City of London because a lot of our clients come to the West End to dine in our restaurants, so we’re now able to take the social brand to them.

How has your style evolved since the opening of Pollen Street Social?
It has grown up. I was almost chasing fashion when I first opened Pollen Street; now I don’t follow anything, I just cook the food I love to eat and I think that really shows in the fact that the food has really matured at Pollen Street. We’ve carried that whole philosophy throughout the company.

You’re quite the globetrotter - how do you manage to balance so many restaurants around the world?
My number one priority is and always will be Pollen Street Social. That doesn’t mean to say I don’t put a lot into each restaurant, but I make sure they each have a chef patron who takes the same view as me and looks after them.

You are backing the new restaurant in the Town Hall Hotel, how involved will you be from a food perspective?
It’s one-hundred-thousand-percent Lee Westcott. Lee Westcott is the chef patron at the Town Hall - he’s a partner in the business. I’m purely backing Lee there because he is a talent that I think is going to be one of London’s big names in the next decade, and I really believe in him as a cook. I’ll be involved purely on a basis where he can use me as a sounding board to try out his new dishes, look at his wine list and make sure he’s got the Social ethos behind him to give him a real chance of success.

Do you still consider yourself a chef, or have you moved firmly into the restaurateur camp?
I’m a chef who dabbles in the world of restaurateur, but I’m very much a chef first and foremost.

Is it hard handing over so much control to your team?
Yes of course it’s hard, but like anything you have to trust your team. If not, you have to seriously ask yourself why you employed them and that’s a given for me. I’m very lucky I have a fantastic network of talented people around me who I can trust 100%!

What else can we expect from you in 2014?
Much the same as last year; I’ll be concentrating on Pollen Street Social every day and working with the team on all the other projects.

See our full City Social listing here.

Published 15 April 2014.

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