The man behind bespoke caterer The Sticky Fig, Tom Court tells us how he turned what could have been a lost summer into a success and found the holy grail of work/life balance
Tell us about your cooking
The priority is always fresh and local. We launched Sticky Fig six years ago just as street food was becoming a big thing which we embraced, then we moved into weddings and festivals as well as film crew catering. We’ve met some fabulous people. We’re also on our third series of catering for Great British Menu, which is being filmed in Stratford-upon-Avon, feeding the likes of Tom Aikens and the country’s finest home economists. It’s quite the endorsement.
How did you become a chef?
I’ve been working in food since I was 14. I started in a bakery. It’s always been about food for me. We grew up on a sort of small holding with loads of animals – cattle, ducks, etc – and my parents were hippies really. We were a bit feral! My aunty was behind Berkswell cheese and I used to drink the milk. I was a head chef for someone else for 13 years working 90 hours a week before going it alone. Now I work hard, but if I want to take time off to go and do something I can.
How did you adapt to the restrictions around Covid-19?
Initially it looked like a whole summer gone. Weddings, festivals, events all gone. It was horrible getting calls from brides and grooms. Thankfully most of them have moved their weddings to next year. Luckily, we had the Revival trailer already, so we started doing pop-ups. The first was the Swan at Chaddesley Corbett which got us rolling again and it built up to five days a week in different villages in the area. It could be fish and chips, really good burgers – we make our own buns, pizza, brownies. We also started doing picnic boxes for delivery which worked well, so much so that we’re planning Christmas hampers.
What do you eat when at home?
We’re very lucky, we get to eat leftovers!
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
I’d probably say David Everitt-Matthias at Le Champignon Sauvage. If he’s not cooking, the restaurant doesn’t open and I like that. I think there are a lot of Michelin-starred chefs who don’t actually cook in their kitchen and that’s not for me. In Birmingham, Harborne Kitchen is top of my list.
Is the customer always right?
Yes. It has to be like that. We’re built on reputation, so yes always.
Share a cooking tip
Don’t overcook eggs.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
Meringue or a Sunday roast at home.
Food heaven and food hell?
Heaven is a really good chin of beef cooked on the bone with plenty of fat. Hell is any kind of processed food. KFC would be pretty hellish.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
A few weeks ago in Borough Market there was a long queue for one of the stalls, so I thought I’d join it. I ended up eating sea urchins – I won’t be doing that again!
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?