Summit will be an inspiration for all in food
SET in the heart of London’s Fitzrovia, Charlotte Street is home to an eclectic range of restaurants housing some of the most talented chefs in London.
The area is buzzy, with a good passing trade, and offers me the opportunity to create a restaurant reflective of my personality. This is the place I chose to open my first restaurant, The Ninth.
The reason for the name is that it’s the ninth restaurant that I’ve worked in, but the first one I’ve owned. It’s a relaxed, yet discreetly stylish space and I hope that we’ve managed to create a welcoming environment that feels familiar and warm.
Over the course of 25 years, I’ve worked in some of London’s top restaurants including Le Gavroche, Restaurant Marco Pierre White and The Square. I trained in classic French cooking, working with industry legends like Marco Pierre White, Phil Howard and Michel Roux Jnr.
But when it came to opening my own place, I wanted to showcase a slightly different style of cooking that’s more personal to me, using my classic training as the foundation, but with a more relaxed approach - the kind of food that I enjoy and would serve up at home for friends and family. Which is another reason why I opted for the sharing idea.
When I cook at home, I always prepare a selection of dishes, place them in the middle of the table, and encourage everyone to share, rather than confining it to the traditional three-course. This is how I personally like to eat and I think it works well with the type of food I serve at The Ninth.
For me, sharing food is a very social and intimate experience, as it encourages conversation and allows people to experience a greater range of dishes over the course of an evening. It’s how I used to eat at home as a child so it’s very natural for me.
I’m often asked what earning a Michelin star means for the restaurant and for myself. In truth, it’s different for everyone. For us, it certainly drove more traffic and attracted customers who would have never otherwise come, and that’s great!
But on a personal level, I just feel very honoured and happy for the team that their hard work has been recognised and rewarded with such an accolade. In my opinion Michelin has certainly evolved over the years, embracing new trends and welcoming the diversity of dining experiences on offer, and to be even a small part of this is very exciting.
Opening The Ninth is the realisation of a lifelong ambition, and to finally achieve this is incredibly satisfying. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the most stressed I’ve been but also the happiest.
Throughout my career, I have always looked for the next thing – a promotion, another restaurant to train in; but for the first time I feel that this is where I belong.
It sounds slightly contrived but it has been such a long and difficult journey to get here that I am truly grateful for what I have. I know that this feeling will not last forever but for now, I want to appreciate the moment. Put it like this, I’m not looking for The Tenth restaurant any time soon!
:: Jun Tanaka will be a keynote speaker and guest chef at the NI Hotels Federation 'Taste of Tourism' summit in the Culloden Estate & Spa on Monday and Tuesday April 3 & 4. The summit has been developed to showcase Northern Ireland food and drink and to provide a platform for the industry to learn, develop and network. More details at www.tasteoftourism.com