Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge is known for his many TV shows and successful restaurants, which include the famous Hand and Flowers pub in the Buckinghamshire town of Marlow – the only British pub to have two Michelin stars.
And while many of us have spent lockdown indulging in Netflix boxsets, Tom, who is married to sculptor Beth Cullen-Kerridge and has a four-year-old son Acey, has been as busy as ever, creating new foodie events to lift the nation's spirits.
First came his Drive & Dine comedy and movie events and now the star has launched Pub in the Park's Drive-In Garden Party at Henley, Knebworth House and Tunbridge Wells, featuring top acts like Kaiser Chiefs, Groove and Basement Jaxx. The events will have five different restaurants; courtesy of chefs including Tom, Atul Kochhar and Paul Ainsworth.
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"It's going to be like Pub in the Park but drive-in style," Tom says. "You get your own garden space and you can park your car – it means we can do it in a socially distanced way of getting the bands in, and still have that great vibe."
With most festivals cancelled this summer due to COVID-19, Tom's Garden Party events, which feature foodie stalls and a market, sound pretty amazing.
We caught up with Tom to chat all things food and find out what he's been up to since lockdown started…
Hi Tom, how have your restaurants adapted to the pandemic?
"First and foremost is guests' health and safety but also staff as well," Tom tells us. "Every morning staff have to fill in a questionnaire about their health and have their temperature checked when they come through the door. We record all of that, and we take bookings anyway so we've always got people's contact details.
"The staff wear PPE. At the Hand and Flowers the chefs wear baseball caps and visors. At The Coach pub (also in Marlow) they've all got face masks, and at Kerridge's Bar and Grill in London the kitchen is very large so quite often the chefs are within two metres of each other. They wear PPE when they are close to each other during service.
"We've been working very hard for a number of months to put together our COVID-19 policy, but we're also very aware that people are coming out to have a good time, so we feel we've got the balance right."
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The Hand and Flowers pub in Marlow
What are you most looking forward to about the drive-in Garden Parties?
"It's trying to get that Pub in the Park vibe back – that taste of summer where everyone's out and about and having fun, eating great food and having a drink, seeing a band – that's been completely missed across the board from everybody this year and it's such a shame. The biggest festival of all, Glastonbury, isn't happening; it's been a really sad summer from that point of view. I'm looking forward to people being out and about again."
How have you found lockdown at home with your family?
"It's been amazing to spend that time with Acey. It's been very special. He starts school this September so I'm very keen to be a part of taking him to school - two, three, four times a week would be great if I could get that into my diary and make it work."
"I love every minute of spending time with him, it's an absolute privilege. We've grown very much together. He actually now gets a bit disappointed that I'm going back to work which is very sweet, but at the same point, he's got to learn that everyone's got to go to work. That parental guilt is no different to every family up and down the country."
Does Acey take after you in the kitchen?
"He's really interested in a job, he loves a job, something to do. He's interested in the process of cooking because it's a job. He loves having something to do all the time. He's not very good at sitting still.
"I'm massively going to encourage him to work in the restaurant, just to get that value of work and return – to get that understanding that if you work with something you get paid. Nothing comes for free. He's going to be in a very fortunate position that there's going to be a job for him, whether it's washing up and whether he wants to do it or not!"
Have you been cooking a lot at home during lockdown?
"Yeah, throughout the lockdown we've been doing lots of cooking. I try to get ahead of things, so ragus and stews and slow-cooked things. Quick meals I like to cook… the little man is quite good at doing things like omelettes and chopping mushrooms."
Wow, that's amazing, at age four!
"Don't get me wrong, he doesn't do it quite good enough to be working at the Hand and Flowers but not far off!"
Tom with wife Beth
You've spoken openly about your weight loss – have your workouts changed in lockdown?
"As we're slowly coming out of lockdown, you can kind of tell there are two types of people: ones who have been very conscious about what they're eating and tried to stay on top of their health and others who've just enjoyed themselves.
"I've been very conscious of trying to stay careful of what I eat, and I've taken up running. I'm not built for running and I pretty much hate every minute of it. However I'm quite good at forcing myself to do stuff, so I've been alright at getting out onto the road and running 5k pretty much every day. But I can't wait for the gyms to reopen."
How do you relax?
"Spending time with little man. In lockdown he's learnt to ride a bike, so quite often we'll ride into Marlow and go to the park, hang out, go for an ice cream and feed the ducks. Just generally hanging out and having family time - stuff that people quite often take for granted. For me it's my most cherished moment, I love them very much."
What's next for you work-wise?
"To be honest, the focus now in the hospitality industry is the re-emergence, coming out of hibernation, those tentative steps we're taking, seeing where we're at and how the business is reacting to the new situation.
"I'd love to say that we've got loads of projects on board but the biggest project right now is securing the future of all of our friends and colleagues, and ensuring that the businesses can sustain the next 18 months to 2 years with minimal job losses and are able to survive. That is a project that we're not underestimating at all."
Pub in the Park’s drive-in Garden Party is taking place from 4th-20th September and tickets go on sale on 17th July. Visit driveingardenparty.com