Private Chef Tom Snell
Tom truly is an Elite Chef. He predominantly travels for six months of the year whilst cooking onboard a large private jet for the aircraft owners and their family. The remainder of the year he spends with his family at home in Wiltshire and fills his spare time cooking for private households across the UK, serving everything from intimate dinners to weddings and events.
Born in Cornwall, Tom worked the ranks of the kitchen to become a highly experienced chef who’s career has seen him work in several Michelin starred restaurants, and onboard several private aircraft cooking for multi billionaires, various heads of state and members of multiple Royal Families. Tom’s first book, Jet Chef – Cooking around the World is due to be published in 2017.
We managed to get Tom to give us a few minutes of his precious time and give us an insight into the world of a ‘high flying’ private chef
Did you always know you wanted to work in the food industry?
No. I’ve always had a deep interest in food but it wasn’t until I took a weekend job as a kitchen porter when I was about 14 that I became inspired to become a chef. Everything accelerated from there really up until my position now.
Where, or from whom would you say you got your most valuable piece of training?
Without doubt, travelling the world has made a huge impact on both my style of cooking and my personal taste when it comes to eating. Flavours from the Middle East and Asia now form a robust part of my repertoire. I often eat and mentally dissect the dish to understand the methods used to achieve the end result; I suppose this kind of thing could be classed as a type of self-teaching.
Do you let others cook or are you the nominated chef at social gatherings/holidays?
I’m a big BBQ freak so I definitely like to dominate that scene. Other than that I’m super appreciative of others cooking. A lot of friends are reluctant to invite me to a dinner party, I’m not sure why, perhaps they think I’ll be critical. In reality it would be gratefully accepted.
What is your favourite ingredient/ingredient of the moment?
I’m big on seasonality, so right now, Asparagus is starting to come in and features heavily in my diet. It’s pretty versatile but my favorite preparation has to be char-grilled with plenty of black pepper and Lemon.
What is your must have/can’t live without kitchen gadget of the moment?
This has to be the Big Green Egg. It’s a Japanese Kamado style BBQ/Grill. It allows a whole host of cooking variation from low and slow smoked to high heat searing and grilling. For me it’s taken cooking to a whole different level. Sadly hot coals are frowned on upon the aircraft or I’d certainly have one in the galley!
What is your most treasured/first memory with food?
I remember my grandparents taking me to a ‘posh’ restaurant. I must have been about seven or eight years old and despite them trying to persuade me not to, I ordered a lamb’s kidney dish. I come from a family of pretty plain eaters so this was seen as almost taboo! Regardless I finished the plate and thoroughly enjoyed.
What is the craziest/scariest/most surreal experience you’ve had in your career to date?
My job! It’s been all three at times. We do some crazy trips and have utterly surreal requests. There has been a few scary moments too, getting struck by lightening has got to be up there with my top heart racing moments!
What’s your favourite traditional British dish to cook or eat?
I do love a good pudding. Oxtail has to be my favorite. Gently braised and then steamed in its suet pastry case. It’s got to be my number one winter warming dinner.
What is a typical day at work for you?
I’d typically check out of the hotel I’m in about 5-6 hours prior to a flight and head to the airport. After security checks I finally arrive at the aircraft steps where I will meet with the person delivering the produce I had ordered previously. We will load the produce and then I will start to prep the dishes for that day’s flight. Sometimes there will be special requests but generally I have a pretty free reign of what to cook. We have a pretty extensive galley but naturally certain things are restricted which will dictate what goes on the menu. Passengers will arrive and we will depart for whichever destination it may be. Depending on the flight time we will serve canapés upon boarding, followed by one or two services. These can vary from a snack style on short flights to a six-course menu. After landing and waving the passengers goodbye it’s time to clean down and head to the next hotel for a cold beer!
Describe your perfect day off?
I’m generally an early riser so when I’m at home, I’d be getting up and making breakfast for my family. I love days out with the kids so we’d have to take a trip or have some kind of adventure. It’d be a nice warm sunny day so maybe a trip to the beach, a swim in the sea and some rock-pooling. Fish and chips at the seaside is a must for me, followed by ice cream. In the evening, a movie at home would be a perfect way to relax after a busy day out.
You can find out more about Tom here at www.elitechef.co.uk