Jamie Halsall – Head Chef at Cin Cin Fitzrovia
Private Dining Rooms interview with Jamie Halsall at Fitzrovia’s Cin Cin Italian restaurant
How long have you been at the restaurant?
I have been with Cin Cin for 6 years during which time we have opened three restaurants, navigated a pandemic and launched a ‘finish at home’ business.
Which was the first restaurant you worked in?
My first job as an apprentice chef was at a restaurant called The Willow Tree in Taunton. I spent four happy years under the nurturing eye of chef patron Darren Sherlock whose wealth of experience put me on the right path and has brought me to where I am today – and nearly 18 years later I’m still using his recipes!
What was the last London restaurant you went to, apart from your own?
Having recently had a child, dining out has been a little tricky but I had a superb meal at Elliots in Borough Market not too long ago with several babies in attendance. The food is right up my street and very similar to Cin Cin – I can’t wait to go back.
What or who has been the biggest influence on the way you cook and why?
Undoubtedly my first head chef. He taught me a work ethic and how to perform. He is a very intelligent cook and his passion had a lasting impact on 17 year old me. I think when you’re young you absorb things more easily so a lot of what he taught me about technique, ingredients and determination has stayed with me.
What is your personal signature dish?
It has to be the rabbit croquette with pesto emulsion. A totally accidental dish. I was meant to be putting on braised rabbit, beans & pesto on our opening week and realised it wasn’t practical. So a sharp adjustment led to our most famous dish. Slow cooked meat bound in a very Parmesan bechamel, bread crumbed & fried. I always joke that it’s the dish that afforded us the second restaurant.
Which other chef’s) do you most admire?
I’m always looking for inspiration but somebody who has stayed a constant source of admiration is Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in Napa Valley. He exudes excellence whilst being one of the nicest guys in the business – he’s a testament that you can reach the heights of the industry without needing to be macho or just generally unpleasant which for a time we seemed to think just came with the territory of success.
What’s the best part of your job?
Honestly? Simply being on a section day in & day out. I love having a list to do and just enjoying the feeling of getting it done. When I was an apprentice I never finished on time so I really feel as though I’ve “made it” when I get the job done in a timely manner. I don’t want to ever not be cooking as part of my day to day.
And the worst?
When I make a mistake. There’s no feeling like it.
What would your last meal be?
Spaghetti bolognese (it’s not even Italian) but it holds fond memories which is what it’s all about at the end of the day. Mustn’t forget the chianti!
Do you have a chef’s shortcut that you can share with us?
Having sharp knives is the surest way to saving time & energy. Putting your pan on a low heat whilst you prepare the vegetables will mean that it’s the correct heat when you’re ready. Too many people forget to put the pan on first!