Five minutes with Chef George Scott-Toft of YOPO

Chef George Scott-Toft is currently leading the helm at one of the most exciting restaurants in London: YOPO. Located within Fitzrovia’s boutique hotel The Mandrake, YOPO recently re-opened its doors with a brand new modern design and a new menu focusing on South American and European influences. Take a trip to YOPO and you’re unlikely to forget about it in a hurry. 

We caught up with Executive Chef George Scott-Toft to find out his own personal food loves and hates, and he gets honest about his frustrations for food waste.

Five minutes with Chef George Scott-Toft of YOPO

What’s your very first memory of food?

My earliest memory of food dates back to my time in New Zealand when I was about 3-4 years old. I vividly recall sitting at the bar of my uncle’s restaurant, watching the cooks expertly cook and grill various dishes. The sight of the flames and the aromas sparked an interest in the kitchen and restaurants in general for me.

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

Probably something simple like baked beans and toast. However, when I was 11 years old, my mom taught me how to make risotto. It was a game-changer for me. I learned to be gentle and patient with the ingredients, adding them at just the right time. Soon enough, I even took on the responsibility of making school lunches for my siblings.

What do you like to do to relax?

Riding my bike. Whenever I have the chance, I try to dedicate 6-8 hours a week to cycling. It’s not only a great physical activity but also incredibly therapeutic for me. Riding my bike helps clear my mind.

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

Char Siu Pork. During my time in Hong Kong, I developed a deep love for it. It held a special significance for me as the Siu Mei was conveniently located near my workplace, and I found myself indulging in its affordable and irresistible flavours almost every other day. The combination of tender sticky pork and fluffy rice left a lasting impression.

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

It would be a tough decision, but it would be either salt or olive oil, because they can elevate the flavour of almost any dish.

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

Well, if I don’t mention my wife, I might find myself in a bit of trouble… So, alongside my beloved wife, there’s one person I would be absolutely thrilled to have at my dinner party on the island: Pierre Gagnaire. He has been a tremendous inspiration to me, especially during my time working at the first Michelin-starred restaurant where he helmed the kitchen. His culinary prowess and innovative approach would make for an unforgettable dining experience on the island.

What has been the most formative experience of your career?

Working at Sketch Lecture Room and Library under the mentorship of Pierre Gagnaire and Jean-Denis Le Bras. Their guidance and innovative approach to cuisine had a profound impact on my culinary journey.My time at The Greenhouse with Antonin Bonnet further shaped my skills and refined my understanding of fine dining. Equally influential was my experience working in Hong Kong alongside Christophe Pelé at Serge Et Le Phoque, where I was exposed to revolutionary French cuisine. Each of these experiences has played a pivotal role in shaping my culinary style and passion for the art of cooking.

It’s late at night, you’ve just come home. What are you rustling up for dinner?

I tend to opt for something quick and simple. One of my go-to options would be whipping up a satisfying meal like fried rice or perhaps a comforting classic like cheese on toast.

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

You know, there are a few things. But one that really stands out is the amount of waste we see. It’s truly astonishing how much perfectly good food goes to waste. Therefore, here at YOPO, we’re determined to do our best to avoid it as much as we can. We strive to be mindful and conscious of our practices, working closely with responsible and ethical suppliers to minimise waste as much as we possibly can. It may be a small step, but we firmly believe that every effort counts when it comes to creating a more sustainable and responsible food industry. 

Tell us some more about YOPO. What kind of experience can diners come to expect?

They can look forward to an exceptional dining experience that showcases the best of South American cuisine and culture. I have created a menu inspired by my travels through Argentina, Chile, and Peru, bringing the bold flavours and culinary traditions of these regions to the heart of London.

As diners step into the vibrant atmosphere of YOPO, they can expect a dining experience that goes beyond exceptional food. It’s about immersing oneself in the vibrant tapestry of South American culture, enjoying the lively ambiance, and creating memorable moments with loved ones and friends. 

Describe the restaurant in three words.

Unexpected, vibrant and memorable.


What’s the most popular item on the menu at present, and why do you think that is?

Yellowtail ceviche with avocado, tepache & ají amarillo. Although it may not be available on the menu at present, I must say that its popularity during our participation at Taste was truly remarkable, and we are considering bringing it back very soon. The dish’s presentation and exceptional taste left a lasting impression when we participated in Taste, where it won the title of the most Instagrammable dish. I think it’s the combination of raw Dutch yellowtail, pineapple tepache leche de tigre, tomato, washed onions, and coriander that creates a unique and flavourful taste experience. Additionally, the presentation of the dish is stunning.

Do you have any aspirations and dreams you’ve yet to fulfil?

My goal is to put YOPO on the map as a culinary destination. It’s freaking amazing! I think YOPO deserves to be recognised for its greatness. Additionally, The Mandrake deserves also to be acknowledged and celebrated for its unique offerings.

Find out more about YOPO here.

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