FOR the nation’s pub landlords, lockdown has been nothing short of a nightmare.
And with Boris Johnson still dithering over whether to end the “rule of six” measures that continue to harm our boozers, the picture for many remains bleak.
The pandemic forced Tom Kerridge, who has grafted in the hospitality trade since he was in his teens, to shut down everything he had ever worked for[/caption]
TV chef and proud publican Tom Kerridge knows only too well how this hardship feels.
The star, who has grafted in the hospitality trade since he was in his teens, had to shut down everything he had ever worked for, took his beloved Porsche back to the car showroom and put his staff on furlough.
Speaking to The Sun, Tom said: “I worried we wouldn’t open again. I feared for everything we had ever worked for.”
TV chef Tom says he has ‘missed the energy of being in a pub… seeing people enjoying themselves’[/caption]
But the genial chef refused to let it get him down — and did his level best to turn his situation into a positive.
He became the spokesman for chefs around the country during lockdown, wrote a cookbook, became the face of Hovis bread, set up a charity in his local town and joined forces with football ace Marcus Rashford to help families struggling to feed themselves.
‘Our losses have been huge – catastrophic’
He said: “I am good with stress, I quite enjoy it. It is part and parcel of being in kitchens.
“This year has been like being 26 again, in trouble on a Saturday night getting covers done, making decisions, thinking, using my brain, wondering how do you get to the other side.
“In a slightly twisted kind of way, I have enjoyed the mental endurance of how to survive. I have enjoyed it in a painful way.
Lockdown forced Tom to sell his Porsche back to the dealer – and is not ‘getting it back any time soon’[/caption]
“I wasn’t alone — the entire hospitality business was affected. But I never want to go through it again.”
And now Tom has opened his doors again.
He said: “I missed the energy of being in the pub — I couldn’t wait for the excitement on people’s faces, seeing people enjoying themselves.
“We get into this business because it is hospitality. The buzz of people being in a room.”
But even though things are back to some kind of normal, there were tough moments he will never forget.
Tom joined forces with soccer star and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford to help provide recipes that are ‘exciting and filling’ for kids[/caption]
The worst moment was probably sitting on his own during lockdown in the bar of his pub, The Hand And Flowers in Marlow, Bucks, with the pictures taken down from the wall and the furniture stacked away.
He explained: “I love being in there at 1am after a Saturday with everyone gone.
“There is a hush, it is fantastic, just being in there in the silence, and knowing it’s coming back the next day.
“But I remember being in the pub during lockdown when it was shut. It was awful, very sad.
“It was emotionally pulling.
“In week two of lockdown I sold a big, expensive car — a Porsche Panamera — back to the car dealer. I am not going to get it back any time soon.
“I had to look at everything and see where we could save — getting rid of this, losing that — to make it work.
“Luckily, I don’t have a fear of losing everything, because our losses have been huge — catastrophic.
Tom with mum Jackie who brought him up as a single parent[/caption]
“All I ever wanted from the age of 18, when I walked into a kitchen, was to be in the restaurant world and around food.”
Tom, 47, grew up in Gloucester before moving to London in his early twenties and eventually becoming a sous chef under Gary Rhodes.
In 2005, less than a year after he opened gastropub The Hand And Flowers, it won a Michelin star.
In 2012, it was awarded a second — the first and only time a pub has won two.
Now he has six restaurants, from pubs to fancy London venues, plus Kerridge’s Fish And Chips, which is due to open this month in Harrods.
Tom and his wife Beth, a sculptor who plays a huge part in the business, live near Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, with their five-year-old son Acey and their two French bulldogs.
The person who is proudest of their achievements is his mum Jackie, who as a single mum brought up the chef and his younger brother Sam after she split from their dad when Tom was just 11.
Tom with wife Beth and son Acey[/caption]
Jackie is especially proud of him teaming up with Manchester United star Marcus Rashford.
Tom and Marcus, 23, launched the Healthy Start vouchers cooking scheme, giving out 52 simple recipes at supermarkets and on social media to help families use the vouchers, which were boosted to £4.25 in April.
Tom said: “Our backgrounds are very similar. My mum had two jobs — as a secretary for the council and in the evenings she washed up in the pubs. Marcus’s mum worked in the evening too.
“We wanted to do something to help create life skills — provide recipes that are fun, exciting, substantial and filling, as they may be the only meal that a child has that day. That was the priority.
“Marcus and I know the problems these families have, the way they grow up.
“My mum struggled to feed us. At 11, 12, 13 you don’t realise.
“On a Sunday we had vegetables but instead of a joint, Mum used to get a roll of sausage meat and would roast that. We used to love it.
“We never felt like we were missing out. We were made to feel that it was really cool and special — we had no idea other families could afford more.
Tom and Beth, a sculptor who plays a huge part in the business, live near Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, with five-year-old Acey and their two French bulldogs[/caption]
“My mum is super-proud and really happy with what I am doing.
“She recognises the struggles so many people are facing right now. People find themselves in these situ-ations through no fault of their own.”
‘I got bigger – but not from eating pizzas’
Millions were affected during lockdown and Tom tried to help. He said: “I was busier than ever, trying to help as much as I could.
“It meant the staff felt they had a leader trying to keep things going.
“Now we have got to the other side with a huge amount of debt to sort out before we get a profit. It is like starting all over again.”
The worst moment for Tom was sitting on his own during lockdown in the bar of his pub, with the pictures taken down from the wall and the furniture stacked away[/caption]
He also focused on his fitness regime. Tom weighed 30st when he turned 40, then lost a staggering 12st in five years. He hasn’t had a drink in eight years and feels better than ever.
He said: “My life has completely changed. It is a huge transformation.
“I have a five-and-a-half-year-old son, so a hangover is not something I’d like to cope with.
“He’s a handful — it’s like having two kids.
“I am maintaining my weight now. I have got to the point, like most middle-aged blokes, where I am trying to find a balance.
Tom, 47, grew up in Gloucester before moving to London in his early twenties and eventually becoming a sous chef under Gary Rhodes[/caption]
“I eat carbs, depending on what I am trying to achieve. Sometimes I am trying to increase my dead-lift weight or swim at a certain pace. If it’s big cardio stuff then I eat carbs for energy. I mix it all up. I try to stay in balance.
“We all know that we are eating stuff that is bad. If you treat yourself once a week then it is OK.
“I am still a 6ft 3in bloke. I did put on weight during lockdown, but from bulking up while weightlifting. I was lifting quite a lot.
“I got bigger — but not from eating pizzas.
“When the gyms shut, I ran every day at first. I hated it. By run, I mean jog slowly, like a fat bloke shuffling around 5k. There were no Mo Farah speeds.
“Then I invested in a Wattbike exercise machine and weights, which I love.
“I put them in my garage as the car wasn’t there. And now I have returned to the swimming pool.” After returning to eating carbs, he signed up to become the face of Hovis. He is serving their premium burger buns in his restaurants and appearing in their TV ads, where viewers see him tucking into a gigantic sandwich.
The chef pictured outside The Hand And Flowers pub[/caption]
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On his social channels, he took a friendly swipe at Hollywood star George Clooney, who stars in War-burtons’ TV ads, saying: “George who?”
Tom said: “We were looking for really good burger buns and started talking to Hovis. They had a range called ‘Bakers Since 1886’ coming out, celebrating their history.
“I’m proud to be working with such a great British business and eating their bread — I just have to get myself back on my bike and pedal a little bit faster afterwards!”