LONDON - Irish-born chef Robin Gill trained in Michelin-star kitchens across Europe for more than 10 years before realising that scene wasn't for him.
After stints at Marco Pierre White's The Oak Room and Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, he headed south in 2012 to open The Dairy in Clapham, southwest London.
It quickly earned rave reviews for its creative menu and its use of rustic, seasonal ingredients, inspired by his experience of working at Don Alfonso, a two Michelin-starred restaurant and farm in Italy.
The 35-year-old opened a bistro, The Manor, a few streets away from The Dairy, at the end of 2014, and recently expanded The Dairy with a delicatessen that sells ingredients he sources from the restaurant's rooftop garden.
Q: What have you tried to achieve with your restaurants so far?
A: My whole business plan was to try to bring a farmhouse feel to the city. It was so people can come and have an experience that you might get in the south of Italy or down in Oxford or in the Cotswolds. It's about being informal and rustic.
Q: How does your Michelin-training factor in?
A: I wanted to set an atmosphere in the kitchen, with the team and the dining room that was more bistro. But I wanted the level of the cooking and the thought process behind it to be equal to that sort of Michelin standard.
Q: Restaurant reviews of The Dairy tend to mention how creative the menu is, highlighting the bread served with smoked bone marrow butter smeared on a stone. How did that idea come about?
A: I came up with the smoked bone-marrow butter because I imagined that from Sunday dinner, when you had your bread and you scooped up the beef drippings. With the whole rock idea, we went down to Brighton beach at 6 a.m. in the morning, robbing the beach of stones. You freeze the rocks and put the butter on the rock, it stays the perfect temperature all the way.
Q: What inspired you to become a chef?
A: My father was a musician and my mother was a director and a choreographer in the music business. I wasn't very academic at school but two of my best friends were chefs and they were doing very well. My father knew I always wanted to travel and he knew a lot of chefs in his business, so my parents suggested cooking. The moment I stepped into a kitchen it was like, "boom" -that's it. It just opened up everything. It was the first time I could actually excel at something.
Q: What's a lesson you've learned in your career so far?
A: Always ask questions. Never think you know it all, you never do. Don't ever assume that you should know this therefore you should never ask the question. You must always ask questions, all of the time.