“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 just a 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 loved 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 most celebrated 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, 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 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 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 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 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 from anything that he was used to, presenting an exciting and enriching new challenge.
Eight 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 practised a much more innovative and forward-thinking way of cooking and learnt many 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 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 was approached by Duck & Waffle, London’s first 24-7 upscale restaurant. Tom joined the team as an integral part of Duck & Waffle’s development since prior to opening, Tom worked alongside 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 continued to pay off with Duck & Waffle reaching 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 caramelised plum, 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 promoted to Executive Chef in 2016.
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 move on and seek a new challenge.
Tom is currently consulting on various projects throughout London while seeking opportunities and looking forward to an exciting 2019.