“At quite a young age I decided I wanted to learn to cook so I wrote to a local hotel asking if I could have a job at the kitchen, I haven’t looked back since. I was just intrigued by it. There was hunger in me that made me want to learn. Something about the camaraderie of the brigade in a kitchen, it is like a brotherhood, I love it”.
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 greatest and most respected chefs in the industry, Tom pushes culinary boundaries with his eclectic and exciting menus, a reflection of his passion for his craft.
Tom’s career launched in the kitchen at Cliveden Hotel in Taplow, Bucks 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 Academy of Culinary Arts at Bournemouth and Poole College.
In 2000, having gained his diploma at age 20, Tom moved to 1 Lombard Street restaurant, where he worked under Herbert Berger, one of the first chefs in the UK 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 organization 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 work with Joel Robuchon at the 2 Michelin Star French haute cuisine Restaurant Laurent. The formal, upscale atmosphere, combined with truly classic cuisine, was completely different to anything that he was used to, presenting an exciting and enriching new challenge.
Six months later, Tom returned to the UK 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. Lead by Julian, Tom practiced a much more innovative and forward-thinking way of cooking and learnt a number of new cooking techniques like sous vide cooking and dehydrating that he still uses today. Tom was asked to take on the role of Head Chef at Nobel Rot’s sister restaurant, Graze. Tom seized the opportunity to lead the kitchen team and shape the menu. Under his direction, Graze was voted “Best New Restaurant and Bar” in 2005.
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 certain 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.
While in Istanbul, Tom was contacted by Julian Owen-Mold, whom he had worked with at Nobel Rot, to work as Julian’s Sous-Chef in a 5-star boutique hotel, Nita Lake Lodge, in Whistler, Canada. Excited to take on a new challenge, Tom moved to Canada where he worked with Julian, sourcing 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, My Dining Room, winning “Best Brunch 2011” in Time and Leisure Magazine and “5 out of 5 stars” in Time Out.
In 2012, Tom was approached by Duck & Waffle, London’s first 24-7 upscale restaurant. Tom joined the team as Senior Sous-Chef. An integral part of Duck & Waffle’s development since prior to opening, Tom worked alongside then Executive Chef Dan Doherty, 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 to Duck & Waffle continues to pay off: Duck & Waffle was voted no. 29 in the 2016 National Restaurant Awards, a jump from no. 70 in 2015.
Tom prides himself on his calm demeanour, which belies the effervescence and energy he applies to create new dishes. Developing new and interesting food combinations such as the Miso Glazed Rabbit or Goat Meatballs with caramelized plum, and then seeing them served on the Duck & Waffle menu, gives him a massive sense of pride and happiness. He takes pride in using local British ingredients in his modern dishes and creating sustainable and seasonal menus. It is no surprise that he was quickly promoted to Executive Chef and continues to impress diners of Duck & Waffle with his originality and fresh cooking style.
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 has come for Tom to seek a new challenge. Tom is now taking over the Village East site to open Loyal Tavern. He will head the kitchen at the Bermondsey Street site, run with restaurateur Adam White, with a menu of seasonal British produce and a play on comfort food Loyal Tavern opens
Tom also organises a program called Hospitali-Tee that aims to raise mental health awareness and improve the wellbeing of hospitality professionals through the benefits of golf.