Driven by his pure love of food and his affection for the collaborative nature of the kitchen, Tom Cenci has earned a place as one of London's most prominent chefs. Having worked alongside some of the most celebrated and most respected chefs in the industry, Tom pushes culinary boundaries with his eclectic and exciting menus, reflecting his passion for his craft.
Tom's career launched in the kitchen at Cliveden Hotel in Taplow, Buckinghamshire, during his school years. As a weekend worker in the kitchen at his town's local hotel, Tom proudly learned the ropes in this Michelin-starred establishment. While he continued to work at Cliveden, he honed his craft further at the Academy of Culinary Arts at Bournemouth and Poole College.
In 2000, having gained his diploma at age 20, Tom moved to Michelin starred '1 Lombard Street' restaurant in London, where he worked under Herbert Berger, one of the first chefs in the U.K. to gain a Michelin star. He looks back fondly at his time at 1 Lombard, where Berger's deep sense of discipline drilled the necessity of organisation and structure within a kitchen into the eager-to-learn chef.
A few years on, with a range of experience under his belt and great relationships made, Tom was ready for his next challenge and headed for Paris, the world-renowned culinary capital.
In Paris, Tom was honoured to stage with Joel Robuchon at the 2 Michelin Star French haute cuisine Restaurant Laurent. The formal, upscale atmosphere, combined with genuinely classic cuisine, was completely different from anything that he was used to, presenting an exciting and enriching new challenge.
Eight months later, Tom returned to the U.K. and threw himself into a completely different environment at Nobel Rot in Mayfair. Far from classic, Tom worked with Julian Owen-Mold, who completely changed his idea of how to cook. Led by Julian, Tom practised a much more innovative and forward-thinking way of cooking and learnt many new cooking techniques.
In 2006 Tom's travelling bug was back, inspiring him to up sticks and move to Istanbul, where he worked as Head Chef for Harvey Nichols. Working for an English company in Turkey posed particular challenges, but he met each one head-on: he was named "Best New Chef" in Time Out 2007 and valued his two years with the prestigious brand.
In 2008 he went to work in a 5-star boutique hotel, at Nita Lake Lodge, in Whistler, Canada. He was excited to take on a new challenge, sourcing only local ingredients and devising original and innovative dishes. Tom moved back to the U.K. in 2010 and briefly ran a small Gastro Pub in West London, winning "Best Brunch 2011" in Time and Leisure Magazine and "5 out of 5 stars" in Time Out.
In 2012, Tom had the opportunity to launch Duck & Waffle, London's first 24-7 upscale restaurant. Tom joined the team as an integral part of Duck & Waffle's development prior to opening, putting his heart and soul into creating the restaurant's inventive menus and shaping the brand's playful take on traditional British cuisine, which includes broad European influences with an emphasis on local, rustic, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. His devotion continued to pay off, with Duck & Waffle reaching no. 29 in the 2016 National Restaurant Awards, a jump from no. 70 in 2015.
After six years at Duck & Waffle, running a 24-hour restaurant that's open 365 days of the year and 40 floors up in the air, the time had come for Tom to seek a new challenge, and in 2019 Tom took over the 'Village East' site in Bermondsey, London, and re-launched it as 'Loyal Tavern' with restaurateur Adam White, with a menu of seasonal British produce and a play on comfort food.
Loyal Tavern received critical acclaim with write-ups from Giles Coren, Fay Maschler and Marina O'loughlin and was also nominated for 'Menu of the Year' in 'The Caterer' magazine. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Loyal Tavern was unable to reopen after the forced lockdown.
Throughout Tom's career, he has taken on side projects working with esteemed named restaurants, brands and companies like Hakkasan, Soho house and Consensio, to name a few. After hosting a residency in 2021 at Stoney Street, he took over as Head of Food for 26 Grains to oversee both sites in Neal's Yard and Borough Market and collaborate with Soho Farmhouse throughout the early part of 2022.
Tom is now opening Nessa, in London this coming Autumn, It will be a vibrant and informal bistro, sitting on the corner of Brewer and Warwick Street in Soho, on the ground floor of the new 1 Warwick members’ house.
Tom also organises a program called Hospitali-Tee that aims to raise mental health awareness and improve the well-being of hospitality professionals through the benefits of golf.