Five minutes with Ben Tish

Chef and cookbook author Ben Tish joined the executive team at Cubitt House in 2022, where he oversees the menus of many iconic London pubs, such as The Barley Mow in Mayfair and The Princess Royal in Notting Hill.

In 2019 Ben opened Norma a restaurant showcasing Sicilian-Moorish food on Charlotte Street in a striking Georgian townhouse, which received critical acclaim and was brought to life in Ben’s most recent published cookbook: SICILIA. We caught up with Ben to find out what his first memories of food were and what his favourite dishes on the pubs’ menus are at the moment.

Five minutes with Ben Tish

What’s your very first memory of food?

I used to spend a lot of time with my Gran when I was young. A typical Jewish grandmother who was constantly cooking and feeding! I remember her mincing liver for chopped liver by hand in an old-fashioned table-mounted mincer. She also used to give me fried chicken fat pieces as a snack. I have such fond memories of that time.

What’s the first recipe you properly learned to make?

Steak with peppercorn sauce – flambéed for a bit of added theatre. It’s my dad’s signature dish and I used to love watching him make it.

What do you like to do to relax?

Cook at home, write recipes (it’s an obsession of mine) and hang out with my wife, Nykeeta, and our two dogs, Piglet and Peanut. Kitchen life can be quite hectic and intense so down time at home is crucial.

What’s the one dish you can’t live without?

A proper decent slow-cooked curry. I love Asma Khan’s chicken with cashew nut sauce curry. A go-to in my kitchen at home.

What ingredient would you take to a desert island with you?

Sea salt.

You can have a one-off dinner party on your island… who would you invite?

Nykeeta, my two dogs, my Dad, a couple of best friends and my brother and his wife. Family is everything.

What has been the most formative experience of your career?

Growing Salt Yard group from one small site in Fitzrovia to 5 busy West End sites. Enjoyable and painful in equal measures but so rewarding.

It’s 8pm, you’ve just got home. What are you rustling up for dinner?

Something quick like wok-fried prawns and vegetables or chicken with harissa, a simple salad and some freshly grilled flatbreads. Tonight, I’m cooking flattened lemongrass chicken – I saw it on Jamie Oliver’s One Pan Wonders last night. Looks quick, healthy, and easy to make.

"It’s so frustrating that hospitality is not treated with more care and attention from the government. "

Is there anything about the food industry that bugs you? We’d like to hear your thoughts…

It’s still seen as a second-class industry by the powers that be, although it’s the third biggest industry in the UK. It’s so frustrating that hospitality is not treated with more care and attention from the government.

What are your favourite dishes on the menu at the Cubitt house restaurants at the moment?

So many, and the menus are so varied which I love. Anything from chicken Milanese at The Princess Royal, beef suet pudding at The Coach Makers Arms, chargrilled whole seabass with burnt leek vinaigrette at The Builders Arms and fresh pappardelle with venison ragu at The Grazing Goat.

How is the cost-of-living crisis affecting you and your customers?

It’s a serious issue. We are trying to find the balance between upping prices (out of necessity as we have our own rising costs for energy and food) and offering value for money for our guests. So far, we are making things work and are monitoring it daily.

Do you have any culinary aspirations or dreams you’ve yet to fulfill?

I have a dream of owning a small holding and trying to be more self-sufficient in how I eat and cook. I’m not quite ready to do that yet but it’s a medium-term plan and one I dream about daily.

You can enjoy Ben’s food at Cubitt House London pubs.

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