Private chef turned supper club host, Blo Deady, speaks to The Sybarite about cooking, Sally Clarke and why supper clubs are here to stay.
Blo Deady, all Irish charm and thick curls, is ready to chat. And for good reason: the ex-Rowley Leigh alumni and former Sally Clarke protégée, has plenty to talk about right now.
By all accounts, the capital has developed an insatiable appetite for supper clubs – basically a posh take on the traditional pop up – which are springing up all over the shop.
Michelin-starred Spanish chef, Albert Adrià, is more than a month into his 50-day residency at Regent Street’s glam Hotel Café Royal, while Adam Rawson – Chef of the Year at Young British Foodies 2015 – recently hosted a series of successful Basque supper clubs at One Sixty City.
So why does Deady think that supper clubs are proving so popular with Londoners? “I think people are ready for a new experience. I wanted to create something as intimate as a dinner party without the formality or fuss of a restaurant. It had to be relaxed and jovial, but the emphasis absolutely had to be on the food. There is a big social element to supper club that you simply don’t see in a restaurant. You sit alongside somebody you wouldn’t normally cross paths with.”
Spend even the smallest amount of time talking to Blo and it quickly becomes clear that the Irishman lives, breathes and sleeps food. When he’s not in the kitchen, Blo is “eating, researching recipes, going to new restaurants, visiting Borough market…” and confesses he can’t imagine “doing anything else. When I was a very young child I wanted to be a pilot, but that would seem like a downgrade now!”
Given Blo’s infatuation with food, we’re curious as to what his favourite ingredient to work with is? “That’s a difficult question. Fabulous (new season if possible) olive oil is an incredibly useful ingredient in the kitchen as it can liven up even the plainest of dishes. It’s a great time for produce right now. The very first English asparagus, Forced rhubarb and, amazingly, we still have blood oranges! I tend to use ingredients like lemons and anchovies to season salads and vegetables. Anchovies have had a really bad rap, but if you make a paste, simply add Olive Oil and a squeeze of Lemon juice and you are left with a beautiful dressing that has a real depth of flavour.”
In many ways the fact that Blo has successfully carved out a culinary career, isn’t so unexpected. Growing up in Ireland, he “was introduced to very good food at a young age. My mother is an extremely good home cook and instilled in me a real respect for food. When I was a little older I was lucky enough to spend time at the extraordinary Ballymaloe Cookery School. I tasted incredible produce grown on their organic farm and remember being completely amazed.”
On finishing school, Blo left his native Ireland for London where he began his career, working first for Kensington Palace, with Rowley Leigh at the helm, and then at Clarke’s.
Refreshingly for an industry full of notoriously volatile figures – Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay anyone? – both of Blo’s early experiences were positive ones. “These wonderful restaurants had a very clear approach to cooking: find the best possible produce you can afford, cook it with sensitivity and quite simply and the end result will be delicious. Sally Clarke reinforced the importance of seasonality which has heavily influenced the way I cook. I am forever grateful for that. I am extremely produce driven and feel incredibly lucky to work with the best suppliers in the world. Natoora, HG Walter, Kensington Place Fish Shop with whom I work very closely with all share my love and respect for the raw ingredient.”
Blo credits Clarke’s, together with the River Cafe, for “taking food in London out of the dark ages” but you’re most likely to find Blo in Bocca di Lupo – “my favourite restaurant in town. They offer an ever changing menu and really delicious food in a relaxed environment.”
As to whom he would most like to cook with, “Skye Gyngell, Sally Clarke, Rory O Connell, Darina Allen and Alice Waters” all feature as does Blo’s own mother. “There are so many on my list.”