The Ten: Benjamin Chapman
Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Name and job title?
Benjamin Chapman, my work is Super 8 Restaurants (Kiln, Smoking Goat & Brat).
Where were you born, and where do you live now?
Born in Birmingham and now live in Hackney, London.
How you describe what you do?
I suppose we make restaurants… researching, cooking, sourcing, providing encouragement, whatever needs doing.
How much did you spend on your last cup of coffee?
Very rarely drink it, I don’t like feeling anxious or overly busy.
What is one ingredient that is crucial to your work?
It’s so rare that I would sit and think about something like this, so it’s difficult to get the thoughts straightened out in my head.
Perhaps restaurants like ours are made in reflection of London. So, in spite of all the elements that focus my mind purposefully elsewhere : remembering a dish from North Eastern Thailand, an idea from the Basque region, working with Pigs in Somerset, growing Holy basil in Cambridgeshire, a project with a wine maker in Perpignan…
These things are all then seen in the restaurants, through the prism of this city. So, you could say London has been the crux of my work so far.
What does a culinary system mean to you?
The words food and system makes me think firstly of supply chain and the environmental and economic sustainability of the food we serve.
Then I think of something horrifying like fish caught in Northern Europe being shipped to China to be filleted and then sent back to be eaten.
Then I think of the system of codes we superimpose on food to match our political or social ideas or status. Also a bit horrifying.
How does your immediate locale affect your work?
I think I’ve touched on this above. To me, the idea of a restaurant and locale are inextricably intertwined. However, I live in Hackney and so side by side with many people who might be my grandparents who may feel that a restaurant like Brat or Kiln isn’t for them. That makes me feel like a lot of what I have done is largely pointless.
Where do you draw inspiration from, in your work?
From the travails of working through the years directly with farms and so learning to see more immediately what a plant has to say about the dish you’re planning to put it in. From travelling to a cha kaiseke restaurant in Kyoto and seeing the collage layering snippets of ceremony, then colour and texture in the ancient crockery then the food all repeated until it’s uplifting. From instagram. From architecture, when a million laborious and awkward messy tasks are brought together into something neat, simple and obvious. Maybe like a great service.
What impact do you want to have?
I’m very focussed on building genuine career opportunities for the people I work with. I feel uncomfortable benefiting from the talent and handwork of others so it’s important to me they are equally rewarded. Building a fair, equal company where people feel they are encouraged to express themselves, their background and the vital progressive ideas that big businesses like to make people feel are silly.
What change do you want to see in the culinary system?
The food production system is clearly in dire straits. The gap between what people will say about food but know about farming creates opportunity for unfair systems.
However, in the social systems I see green shoots. More bright things from people who are minorities within the culture of restaurants. More good independent businesses able to support themselves by building a solid base of locals. Beyond food, a generation not quietened by prejudice are about to take over.