What would be your last meal on earth?
Fish and chips, and a can of Lilt. Ideally from Danny Dyke’s chippy in Gloucester, where I grew up.
What was your first childhood food memory?
My mum Jackie – who turns 70 this year – was a single parent with two jobs, so it was me and my brother Sam, now 38, burning Findus crispy pancakes in the oven! But when I was about 13, Mum taught me to make a bolognese.
Your pub, The Hand and Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, has two Michelin stars. Do you prefer pub food to fine dining?
I enjoy fine dining a couple of times a year, but it was really important to make my first business something very ‘me’. And I like pubs! We’re laid-back here. If you want a beer instead of a £50 bottle of wine, that’s fine. If you want to come in wearing flip-flops and shorts, that’s fine, too. But the food will be fantastic.
What’s the best meal you’ve eaten?
My friend Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck is undoubtedly one of the world’s finest restaurants. Chef’s Table in Brooklyn is another favourite, and I had amazing street food in a place called Rat Alley in Hong Kong.
Do you have many celebrity patrons?
We’ve had Lily Allen and Liam Neeson came three nights in a row, and Heston used to live opposite. George Clooney has been, too. But there’s no preferential treatment. If Dave from Bristol has a table booked, George has to wait.
What do you do in your downtime?
Watch Marlow FC. If kick-off is at 3pm on a Saturday then I usually finish lunchtime service and make it to the ground for 3.02pm.
You lost six stone last year. How did you go about it?
One of the big problems of being a publican is that you’re surrounded by beer, so I gave up drinking 15 months ago and started swimming every day. I’m more or less teetotal now but I had a few beers on my 40th last year. Actually, it was more like a four-day bender…
What else are you working on at the moment?
I’m preparing to host a restaurant at Royal Ascot, called On 5; I’ll get to see the Queen arrive every day! I’m not the type to get suited and booted so I’ll be in my chef’s whites, working hard to keep everyone happy.
How do you enjoy the fruits of your success?
A friend once said, ‘If you want to make a small fortune, start off with a large fortune, then buy a restaurant.’ We’ve had The Hand and Flowers for nine years, and last year was the first I paid myself a salary. Most of the money we’ve made, we’ve invested back. But part of the reason for building up the business was so my wife Beth could concentrate on her art. She’s now able to do her sculptures full time.
When are you happiest?
Sunday morning, drinking coffee, reading the papers with my lovely wife. And standing at the restaurant pass on a busy Saturday night, watching happy customers. That’s what being a chef is all about.
Tom will be hosting Royal Ascot’s new restaurant On 5 on 17-21 June. For more information visit ascot.co.uk or to book call 0844 346 0346