About Time You Met: Kirk Haworth, Executive Chef of PlatesBy Alicia Grimshaw
Plates is a new high-end plant-based restaurant in east London which focuses on the partnership of food, art and travel, fuelled by the freedom of change. The concept was born following Executive Chef Kirk’s diagnosis with Lyme disease in 2014 which dramatically changed the way he now works, cooks, eats and creates.
Having worked in some of the world’s finest restaurants, including The French Laundry, Restaurant Sat Bains, and The Square and Quay in Sydney, Kirk opened Plates earlier this year with his sibling, Keeley. We chatted to Kirk about plant-based eating, the vegan food movement and his cooking style:
Your restaurant Plates is an entirely plant-based eatery – what made you open a vegan restaurant?
I started to eat a plant-based diet myself and became unbelievably intrigued with the power of fruits and vegetables. I spent a lot of time learning about and understanding their nutritional values and more, and the way they work in the body when consumed. I always wanted to create a restaurant concept that was different; something challenging that would bring a completely new way of eating to the food scene in London – and I went for it. Our mission is to appeal to people of all diets, and show how plant-based dining can be equally exciting and fulfilling as any other dining option.
Your father is Michelin-starred chef Nigel Haworth – what best piece of advice did he give you whilst you were training?
Do not waste anything! Each ingredient is precious and all parts can (pretty much) be used in some way. Another is to “write everything down”. He installed this into me from an early age so where ever I worked I always had lots of pads with all my notes on them, I’m always recording new ideas that come to me throughout the day.
What’s it like running Plates with your sister?
It’s great, we have really different skillsets but the same vision, passion for food and dedication to building something unique. Keeley really drives our new food studio too which has brought another dimension to the business, creating brand experiences, private events and interesting content through collaborations or development projects.
You opened Plates this year – what’s the response been like so far?
It’s been really amazing. We’ve only been open a few months but people have been really excited to try the food we’re creating – and also experience the full ‘natural food journey’ including our drinks of the same ethos. It has been driven a lot by word of mouth too, which is incredible.
We’ve been really nicely busy, and there’s a brilliant buzzy atmosphere which you can never guarantee with a new restaurant. It often takes time to build a loyal customer base, and also keep attracting new customers – but once people have been to eat with us they often come back and bring their friends or family, which we’re so grateful for.
Vegan dining is on the rise – how are you changing people’s perceptions of plant-based eating?
We are really focused on making sure our food appeals to people of all diets and making plant-based more mainstream. I work hard to make each dish interesting, flavourful and fulfilling, so that diners who usually eat meat or fish, do not miss it. We want to make sure plant-based becomes a regular option for people of all diets and change the perception that it’s lacking in any way.
How long does it take for you to come up with new dishes on the menu?
Anything from 1-3 months before I’m really happy with it. So much more time goes into my development now, as we also don’t cook with gluten or refined sugar either. This makes things more challenging for me, but more rewarding in the end, showing how plant-based food can be complex and delicious with a pure focus on plants, vegetables and fruit.
Photo Credit: Anton Rodriguez
What do you think of the plant-based food scene in London?
I think it’s pretty good and the options are always getting better. I really am very excited to see how it develops over the next few years. London is such an amazing city for exploring all types of food.
What ingredients do you most like to cook with and why?
I love to cook with new exciting ingredients and I try my best to find fruits or vegetables that are not being used anywhere else; or if it is a strawberry, for example, it must be the best tasting strawberry available. I love cooking with root vegetables, I think they are so diverse and at the moment I’m loving using all different types of kohlrabi.
What person or place has inspired your cooking style the most?
My style of cooking is completely new and born out of my very personal journey in food, but I was lucky enough to spend time with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, and it was life changing seeing the way he and the team work together; the discipline and organisation is mind blowing. He inspired me to have the belief and strength to create my own style of cooking and to always be yourself and passionately express yourself in your food.
Favourite restaurant in London:
This is a tough one, there are lots of incredible chefs & restaurants in London – I would probably say Lyles for lunch, it’s so relaxing, very friendly and James Lowe is an intelligent chef who cooks with serious produce but in a clever & delicious way.
For more information on Plates – see the website here.
93 Kingsland Rd, London E2 8AG