Lewis de Haas worked at Petersham Nurseries and The Shed in Notting Hill before becoming head chef at Crispin in Spitalfields two years ago. Growing food as a child on his family allotment spurred his passion for natural, seasonal cooking that continues to influence every dish on the produce-driven menu at Crispin today.
Why and when did you decide to become a chef?
My first job, washing up in a local cafe in Weymouth, Dorset (Hamiltons) was the beginning of the journey and was the source of all the inspiration and enjoyment to want to pursue a career in hospitality.
What would you suggest we order from the menu at Crispin?
I think a selection of the menu is probably the best policy. We try to introduce something new every couple of days, reacting to the seasons and what is best available. The ingredients come first and then the ideas for the dish follow. We are lucky to have such great relationships with our suppliers which allows us to do this.
What does food sustainability mean to you?
Being part of a system that is natural and protective to people and the environment.
Has your life changed since you started to be environmentally conscious?
My life hasn’t changed but my approach and priorities have. We’re starting to get a bit more oversight on where things come from and where they end up!
What advice do you think was important to you, and could make a difference for others too? Do you believe that there is a growing awareness that everyone can help the environment by making simple food changes?
I think being lucky enough to grow up and experience an allotment, to see how and when food grows and sets the tone for natural, seasonal cooking. There is definitely a growing awareness and interest in helping the environment. The current economic situation makes it difficult for everybody to act in a purchasing sense, but everybody can contribute by trying to reduce waste. I feel restaurants have a huge part to play in being responsible and contribute to making a difference.
What are some food items that are usually discarded but should be used?
Herb stalks and vegetable peelings.
What do you think the future of food sustainability will look like in 10 years?
Progressive. Hopefully with a feeling that every single one of us has the power to make positive change, however small it may seem. With a continuation of greater interest and information available to help us achieve this.
What is your favourite thing to cook at home?
Anything interactive with my daughter – pasta, breads, cookies.
What could we expect to find in your refrigerator?
Beer, onions, potatoes.
Name the 3 kitchen tools you can’t do without?
Cook’s knife, paring knife, sharpie.
Do you have a guilty food pleasure?
Which chefs have inspired you in your career?
I’ve learnt something from every chef I’ve ever worked with at all levels. What we do is such a broad subject and we can definitely take something from everyone we meet.
What do you love most about your job? What are the greatest rewards?
Seeing guests have a great time, returning guests, watching team members and the business progress.
Where would be your dream place to work?
40 seats in the middle of an allotment by the sea.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become a chef?
Find a place where your cooking is a happy experience, don’t compare yourself to anybody else.
If you could cook and eat a meal with any person, alive or dead, who would you choose?
Favourite 3 places to eat & drink in East London?