Chef savouring the game

FOOD might be his first love and the recipe behind his staggering success, but it isn’t the only ingredient of Tom Kitchin’s life.

Right now he’s getting passionate about something else – sport. The big Liverpool fan is basking in the glory of his side edging ahead of his home city’s Hearts in Thursday night’s first-leg European tie at Tynecastle – despite admitting the 1-0 win was more than a tad fortunate.

He was pulled into the loving arms of the Reds as a child taken to Anfield by his grandfather, in the days when Liverpool swept all before them, winning league titles and European Cups, and pulling in massive crowds.

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The atmosphere on the Kop was electric and Tom was hooked.

Now, with his working days stretching from dusk till dawn, and a young family in the shape of sons Kaspar, four, and two-year-old Axel, Tom doesn’t have the time to pursue his sporting interests to the extent he would like, instead having to make the most of his early mornings.

“After I drop the wee one off at nursery I’ll go to the gym for half an hour before coming in to work, and I play football on a Sunday with the boys from the restaurant,” he says.

“We play five-a-sides so it’s not really a formal game. I just want to give the staff the 
opportunity to kick me – which they duly do.

“I went for most of the Hearts v Liverpool game. Hearts were brilliant – the fans, the stadium, they completely outsang the Liverpool supporters. Obviously I’m pleased with the result but Liverpool were rubbish. Hearts had all the momentum and they deserved more than the result they got.”

Born and bred in Edinburgh, and with his hugely successful restaurants, The Kitchin, in Leith, and the blossoming Castle Terrace, in the city centre, Tom, a champion of local food when it comes to cooking, admits he sees the irony in his choice of not-so-local football team.

“I know, I know, that’s what everyone says but I’m not going to lie about it,” he says. “My dad wasn’t that into football so the first person to really teach me about it was my grandfather, who’s a Scouser. He used to take me to the Liverpool matches. Going to see games like that, especially as a youngster, it’s an experience that really stays with you.

“I’m showing my age now, but my favourite players were Scots guys like Kenny Dalglish, when he was a manager too, and Graeme Souness.”

Like most young boys, Tom dreamed of running out on to the hallowed turf of his favourite club, proudly sporting their colours. There’s a long history of the game in his family – legend has it his great-grandfather brought the first ever football to the town of Bowmore on Islay.

Rugby was more his game at school – he was top scorer and captain – but was destined for life in the heat of the kitchen.

“Do I wish I’d kept up playing football, rather than slaving away in a kitchen? . . . nah, I wasn’t good enough!”

Like most of the country, Michelin-starred Tom found himself swept up by Olympic fever during the Games, despite missing pretty much all of the action.

Along with fellow big-name chefs Sat Bains, Claude Bosi, Daniel Clifford, and Jonray and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, he was stationed at The Cube by Electrolux, a temporary eatery which popped up on top of London’s Royal Festival Hall.

“I didn’t see any of the events, no. I didn’t actually see any of the athletes either because they were all competing. But it was still very exciting and we had some real characters in – Boris Johnson, Gregg Wallace . . . It was great to be in London for the Olympics, it was a really good vibe.

“Like everyone in Scotland, I’ve got so much admiration for our Scottish Olympians. Sir Chris Hoy was incredible and it’s great to see Andy Murray winning.

“Anyone who gets to that level, that they’re winning a gold medal, it’s an amazing achievement. Cooking is something I’ve dedicated my life to but the dedication these people have – can you imagine the training?”

With a new recipe book – Kitchin Suppers – out in the shops soon, Tom has plenty to keep him busy but you can be sure he’ll find time to make sure his boys in red put the Jambos to the sword on Thursday night.

Kitchin Suppers can be purchased from The Kitchin, 78 Commercial Quay, or at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and will be available in shops from September 13.