I had the privilege of meeting Chris Golding more than two years ago, when he was the head chef of a new, privately owned, 5 star boutique hotel in South Kensington called The Ampersand. Not so long ago his life totally changed since he moved to Tel Aviv to take up his current role as head chef of Lima Nippo, a new Japanese/Peruvian restaurant in Tel Aviv.
He’s a David Muñoz’s colleague, former chef at Nobu, self confessed Madrid lover…and many other things discovered on this nice chat with him.
Cristina: Where did you grow up, Chris?
Chris Golding: I was brought up in Hertfordshire, and moved to London to train as a chef when I was 17.
Cristina: When did you start cooking and how did your career begin? Where were your first steps?
Chris Golding: My first job was working for Marco Pierre White in his classically French Michelin starred restaurant, Mirabelle.
I was a commi chef on the larder section, where I would spend all day peeling boxes and boxes of asparagus for the first 6 months! After a while I moved slightly up the ladder and would open 100s of oysters and gradually I learned how to make the terrines, until after over a year I would run the section of a team 5 chefs, it was a great experience and taught me the basics of how to cook. I spent 2 years at the Mirabelle. It was then I realized I wanted to become a chef.
From there I worked for 6 months at the 2 Michelin starred “The Square”, which was an amazing experience, at the time, the best food I had ever seen, working with amazing, luxury ingredients such as caviar, foie gras and truffles.
After The Square I took a year out.
Cristina: You’ve worked at Nobu (Berkeley) before. I guess it will have undoubtedly marked a before and after in your career..
Chris Golding: Yes indeed. My next stop was at Japanese restaurant Nobu Berkeley, I was part of the original opening team.
It was a very different kitchen to the ones I had worked before, it was run on respect rather than fear! I’d been used to the screaming and shouting of classical French restaurants, but Nobu was quiet, organised and the chefs seemed to enjoy working there. Again, I was excited about working with luxury ingredients and produce I had never come across before.
Cristina: What did you do after Nobu?
Chris Golding: After 2 and a half years at Nobu, I went to work at Nahm, David Thompson’s Michelin starred Thai restaurant. David was the best chef I had ever met, he was obsessed with flavour, he taught me how to really “taste” what we were serving, Thai food has many levels of seasoning, sweet, salty, sour, spicy and David drilled into us the importance of getting the flavour rite. Every dish that left the kitchen was tasted by David.
I worked my way up to sous chef at Nahm and stayed for 3 years.
From Nahm I then worked as sous chef at Zuma for a year, before taking my first Head chef role at a new restaurant in Knightsbridge called “Galoupet”, I worked extremely hard as it was the first kitchen I was in charge of, we received great reviews, including 4/5 from Fay Maschler and 8 out of 10 from Zoe Williams, but the location wasn’t great and business was slow and unfortunately after 1 year Galoupet closed.
Cristina: I did first meet you being the head chef of The Ampersand Hotel 2 years ago. Was right after Galoupet when you started working there?
Chris Golding: Yes, I was gutted and took a few months off to recharge before taking up the role of Executive head chef at a new, privately owned, 5 star boutique hotel in South Kensington called “The Ampersand”, it was an amazing experience and I enjoyed every minute at The Ampersand. Although at times challenging as we catered for 2 events spaces, a 40 seater restaurant (Apero), afternoon teas, room service, all from a fairly small basement kitchen.
After 3 years at The Ampersand I felt I needed to do something completely different, so took up my current role as head chef of Lima Nippo, a new Japanese/Peruvian restaurant here in Tel Aviv.
Cristina: What a thypical question, but where will I see you in 5 years? Would you consider coming back to London at some point?
Chris Golding: Originally I came to Tel Aviv for 3 months to consult on Lima Nippo and was planning to return to London. But I almost immediately fell in love with Tel Aviv, it’s food scene, great people and amazing produce. So when the restaurant owners offered me a full time position I jumped at the chance to move here.
Everyone here is interested in food and enjoys eating out.
Cristina: What a change! Did you easily get adapted?
Chris Golding: It hasn’t been easy opening a restaurant here and we have had to adapt, always trying to improve, change our menu, find better produce and always listen to guest feedback. But we are proud to have created something different and unique to Tel Aviv.
As Israel is a fairly self sufficient country, we can only get our hands on ingredients available in Israel, therefore if it is not in season and at its peak, then we can’t get hold of it, which I think is great.
Cristina: So, what are your favourite cities for restaurants?
Chris Golding: Tel Aviv has become one of my many favourite cities for food and restaurants, along with London- due to its versatility and the fact that it is so cosmopolitan. You can find some of the world’s worst and some of the Worlds best restaurants in London !!!! From pie and mash to 3 Michelin starred classical French restaurants.
Europes only Michelin starred Chinese, Indian and Peruvian restaurants are found in London.
Cristina: I always talk you about how much I love London and its greatness and you tend to reply saying how amazing is Madrid….Who’s the winner?
Chris Golding: Madrid- I love Madrid, I spent a week there with one of my best friends last year (she’s from there) and we spent all week strolling the streets, eating and drinking in many of the amazing Tapas bars.
For me Spain is hands down at the top of the culinary tree at the moment.
Cristina: Any other city worth mentioning?
Chris Golding: Bangkok, definitely. I have just returned from Thailand, where I enjoyed some of the best street food I’ve ever eaten, sitting on a plastic chair on the side of a busy Bangkok road.
Cristina: Highlights so far? Come on…
Chris Golding: When I worked at Nobu I worked alongside a Spanish chef called David Munoz, we spent 6 months working next to each other on the grill, it was a busy restaurant and we used to argue a lot, but lived next to each other so would always walk home together and laugh it off, he became a good friend. After 6 months David moved to back to Spain to open his own restaurant, after 3 years he won a Michelin star and 2 years ago, age 34 was awarded his 3rd Michelin star at Diverxo. I feel privileged to have worked along side such a talented and now successful chef. I still remember he made a tortilla once for staff meal, so simple, but 10 years on I still remember it!
Cristina: In that case you should come try my mom’s one…that’s the one. What else?
Chris Golding: Other highlights of my career include being a national finalist of the Roux scholarship 3 years in a row and during my first head chef role at Galoupet, we were named in the Evening Standards top 10 restaurants of 2011, alongside Hedone, pollen street social and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
Cristina: What’s the plan now?
Chris Golding: To keep improving Lima Nippo here in Tel Aviv, finding new and exciting suppliers and seeing our customers leave happy.
Cristina: And finally. I do have to ask about your favorite London restaurants. Those ones you go no matter what happens or when you’re craving something special…
Chris Golding: Ok! Well, I really miss Cooke’s pies in Hoxton! Though Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester is definitely my favorite restaurant. Also, I’d like to try Som Saa, my friends Andy and Mark just opened,-I worked with them both at Nahm.
Too, I always take my Nan to St. John on either of our birthdays, she loves the old fashion desserts they serve like crumbles, treacle tarts and steamed sponges.
Cristina: Thank you so much! I do hope to see you very soon in either my beloved London or my hometown. Thank you Chris!