Oliver Pollard

How long have you been at the restaurant?

I’ve been with the Jones family for about 5 months now. Initially I was based in the Shoreditch restaurant getting to know the menu, team and feel of restaurant style and vibe. The chefs there are a great bunch of guys and a solid team. They are really experienced and love what they do, so that makes my job easier. We freshened the Jones Project menu a little and designed the menu for the Jones Kitchen. As openings go, it’s been great and I’m pretty happy but we’re always learning what works best in the space and listening to feedback.

Which was the first restaurant you worked in?

I started at weekends in a small family restaurant in St Albans called Upstairs Downstairs when I was 14. I worked weekends, prepping lots of vegetables initially but it gave me the bug for cheffing. They became my second family! I then went to Carluccio’s while I was waiting for art college but ended up staying and doing loads of their openings. After that I joined Ramsay’s at The Savoy but when they closed for a refurb I was transferred to Jason Atherton at Maze, where they’d just won a Michelin star. It was my introduction to cooking at that level and was really tough although I have good memories (through my rose-tinted glasses!). I went onto The Ebury, and then Marcus Wareing before going back to Carluccio’s for a development role working alongside the Executive Chef.

What was the last London restaurant you went to, apart from your own?

Cornerstone. Tom Brown’s new place. I loved it.  I saw him a couple of years ago on Instagram at The Capital with Nathan Outlaw and really like how clean his food is. It’s a perfectly cooked dish with puree and sauce, just three things that are all incredible. He’s doing what he wants to do, his identity is really strong in his dishes and the flavour is incredible. One dish: a cured monkfish with curried sauce and a pickled lime jam, was so good I honestly welled up and nearly cried!

What or who has been the biggest influence on the way you cook and why?

The Italian style of cooking is what I love – it’s about simple things: using great ingredients, cooked simply and enjoying the flavours. Antonio was a really inspiring character and his passion definitely influenced me. We used to go to his house and just play around with dishes and menus. I also worked in a Michelin starred restaurant in Italy one summer where it was also all about great quality ingredients cooked really well. There’s more technique in my cooking now, and the quality is up a few notches at Jones Family Kitchen but the ethos is the same.

What is your personal signature dish?

I get asked that a lot, and I’m not sure I have a signature dish. I just enjoy cooking simple dishes with great ingredients but some favourites at the Jones Family Kitchen so far include the Cider Cooked Octopus, lentil & herb dressing. We cook the octopus overnight in cider at 84 degrees so it’s super tender then grill it on the plancha so it crisps up but is still soft inside and we pair it with an amazing coal-infused, dehydrated olive and caper dressing giving it a smoking edge.

And I’m also proud of my Sticky Toffee Pudding. Blood, sweat and tears went into creating that and I’m pleased it’s so light. The white miso ice cream is the perfect pairing as it’s so fresh. It’s eggless and from Hackney Gelato who are brilliant and make all our ice creams bespoke for us including the fabulous malted toasted cornflake gelato.

And finally, the whipped goats’ curd, serrano ham with peas, parsley & a fresh orange dressing is one of those dishes that’s perfect for summer with a bottle of rose – and great for sharing starters.

Which other chef(s) do you most admire?

Tom Brown and Jason Atherton.

What’s the best part of your job?

The most fun we have is a busy service when the kitchen is working well and there’s a great vibe coming from the restaurant into the kitchen. I also love creating new dishes.

And the worst?

There never seems to be enough time in the day – especially in this opening period.

What would your last meal be?

Prime rib and a good bottle of red. I love big bold wines and have a new favourite – Papillon which is amazing. It’s a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley and out my price range for a normal night but if it was my last meal, I’d splash out!

Do you have a chef’s shortcut you can use at home?

It’s not a shortcut as such but a top tip. We always season our steaks before cooking with a combination of salts: a mix of Malden sea salt, Smoked Malden sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and ground white pepper. It gives layers of flavour as the smoked salt has a hint of umami and freshly ground pepper makes the flavour much more intense.