Adam Byatt: ‘Giving back should always be a priority’

·6-min read
Byatt’s Trinity restaurant in Clapham has ranked in the top 10 restaurants in London (Adam Byatt)
Byatt’s Trinity restaurant in Clapham has ranked in the top 10 restaurants in London (Adam Byatt)

Adam Byatt is a busy man.

Owner of Trinity, Upstairs, Bistro Union and Outside, as well as director of food and beverages at Brown’s Hotel, he’s a chef with a lot on his plate.

Trinity, which holds a Michelin star, three AA rosettes and numerous other accolades, is celebrating 15 years of service. When it opened in the heart of Clapham Old Town, south London, in 2006, Byatt and his team set out to serve great food that was seasonal, inspiration and, above all, delicious. Today, those priorities haven’t changed.

We sat down with the decorated chef to talk about finding time to relax, famous diners and life after lockdown.

How did it feel receiving Catey’s nominations back to back for 2020 and 2021?

This is such an honour for me. To be recognised by my industry at large is very humbling, but I am just a cook who started out like many others and I hope this can be an inspiration to lots of young chefs.

My hope is that this recognition is for the way we think about hospitality, treat our teams and conduct ourselves.

How do you find time to relax between Trinity, Charlie’s, Bistro Union, and all your other commitments?

I have a brilliant team is the short answer. They allow me to be great at what I do but also give me the confidence and freedom to be me and to have recovery time when I need it.

Sundays are my down day. I run with my Vicki and our dog. We cook a splendid lunch, the kind of lunches that I hope my kids will always want to come home to.

We Zoom call our wider family, drink great wine, watch a movie together and generally have great family time. This is incredibly valuable to me.

I have over the past five years placed value on caring for my mental and physical wellbeing for the first time. I run a lot and take time to think.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited Trinity last month, what was the most memorable part of their visit? What food was served?

This was one of the most amazing days I have ever had at Trinity. HRH and Camilla were lovely people and put everyone at ease. The most wonderful way to kickstart the restaurant again after lockdown.

The best part was my team offering HRH a glass of water with him then declining as it wasn’t gin – such a lovely and playful sense of humour. A day my team will never forget. We served an array of canapes which were wonderful.

I thought about offering a mutton canape but thought better of it.

Trinity is celebrating its 15 year anniversary. What was the biggest struggle the restaurant overcame on its way to a Michelin star, three AA rosettes, and 15 years of service?

Struggle is not a word I would use but the journey, like any restaurants that stand the test of time and evolve, can be hard fought and full of highs and low. Restaurants are a challenging business.

In the beginning of Trinity life I had no interest in accolades and notoriety – all I wanted was to be full, profitable and robust as a business, to be in a position to service our debt at the time and honour our team and suppliers.

Byatt was named Imbibe’s Restaurant Personality of the Year in 2017 for his impact on the London dining scene and commitment to nurturing young chefs’ careers (Adam Byatt)
Byatt was named Imbibe’s Restaurant Personality of the Year in 2017 for his impact on the London dining scene and commitment to nurturing young chefs’ careers (Adam Byatt)

Once we made the decision to evolve and try to achieve a star, we changed a lot but also invested a lot. That was the only year we did not make profit.

What are you most proud of when it comes to your work at Trinity?

How we have evolved as a restaurant and stood the test of time and how we are recognised and valued in our local community. These are really important to me.

What’s next for you in terms of Trinity or other professional goals?

I own Trinity, Upstairs, Bistro Union and Outside and am the F&B director for Browns Hotel in Mayfair. That’s quite enough for now.

Bringing all of this back to being rock solid again after 10 months’ closure is the priority.

Once we are all on track I have the foundations laid for a one-off project in the countryside that will allow me to bring my life’s work to bear and combine my personal passion to deliver a forever restaurant for me. But for now, I am keeping that under wraps.

Loving food is in your genes, with both your mother and grandfather having a background in cooking. How did growing up in such a foodie family influence the way you look at food?

In actual fact, I don’t think it did. Odd, I know, but cooking back then was quite different. My father’s work ethic influenced me the most.

You’re very involved with charity organisations; how do you feel being able to give back to the community this way?

Rather than being able to, I see this as an obligation to contribute.

This industry has treated me well. If you are going to strive to be an industry leader, giving back for the benefit of others should be a priority. Be that with charity, mentoring or industry support. We do our bit, but I do not talk about it in detail as I don’t want this to become currency. This is something that underpins our culture.

What’s one piece of your kitchen equipment you couldn’t survive without?

My knives and a beautiful chopping board.

I love my Ondine pans. With these three things and some great ingredients, most things are possible.

What’s the best dish you’ve had this week?

A peach leaf ice cream we made as a test dish. Soft serve. It was divine!

If you were on a deserted island, what cookbook would you bring with you?

Mine of course. It would make excellent fire-starting material.

Being a chef during quarantine, did you enjoy spending more time cooking from home or did you miss the restaurant kitchen setting?

I loved the cooking at home side of things and actually ended up developing some wonderful dishes and ideas… although I wasn’t keen on the constant barrage of washing up, to be honest.

But the first lockdown, once the business and team were shored up was some of the best times of my life. We lived in a cottage in the woods in Sussex as a family and our dog.

I felt like I had retired, without the pay cheque.

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