NEW VIDEO: James Cochran, Chef Owner, 1251 Restaurant

The Staff Canteen

James Cochran is the chef owner of 1251 Restaurant in Islington and he is currently competing in Great British Menu 2018.

James started his career as a KP in his hometown of Whitstable in a seafood restaurant called Wheelers Oyster Bar. After five years there he won Young Seafood Chef of the Year. He then worked at Read's restaurant in Faversham before spending five years working at two Michelin-starred the Ledbury, His first sous chef role was at  Harwood Arms and since then he has done a number of pop ups and opened James Cochran EC3 which he left in March last year.

James publicly hit out against his previous employer James Cochran EC3 in August 2018 for offering licenses to use his name and recipes.

He opened 1251 Restaurant in Islington in the same month and The Staff Canteen spoke to him about his career to date, what inspires him and what he has learned from opening his own restaurant.

1251 restaurant
1251 Restaurant

Why did you want to become a chef?

I knew I wanted to be a chef from nine years old, cooking with my mum is what inspired me to pursue this career. 

What do you love about being a chef and what keeps you wanting to cook?

 We have lovely produce in the UK and it’s such a joy to work with the seasons. You never stop learning which always keeps you on your toes.

You’ve just opened 1251 in Islington – why did you choose that site and what has the experience been like? 

 We will not go into James Cochran EC3! Now, I honestly think I have a great business partner and we both have the same vision for the future of 1251. I believe a new wave of independent restaurants will open on Upper Street and I believe people are so interested in food, Upper Street is a food hub - I hope to make my mark there.The experience and support from the local community has been overwhelming and I can’t thank them enough.

People may or may not know about the trouble you’ve had with your previous restaurant – in hindsight what advice would you give chefs about this issue?

 You need to sit down with your investor and as the chef you have to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. You have to have trust from your investor and they have to believe in your vision. It’s been a hard few months but it’s a learning curve and it only makes you stronger. You have to build trust in a working relationship without that it’s pointless.

Info bar

Rising stars 

Tom brown  - Cornerstone

Ellis Barrie - Marram Grass

Tommy Heaney - new opening in Cardiff

Restaurant Joro, Sheffield

Guilty pleasures

Fried chicken I cannot get enough that’s my guilty pleasure.

Mr Bao in Peckham I love that place.

Voodoo ray pizza in Peckham.

Top 5 restaurants

Well for me I go to places that punch a lot of flavour!

Silk Road

Mr bao

Duck duck goose

Coal rooms

Begging bowl

You can see I don’t really leave south London on my days off .

Favourite cookbook (s)

For me at the moment it has to be Daniel Clifford’s new book.

What would you say the food style is at 1251?

My style of food is accessible to all walks of life. If I’m putting a smile on customers faces and they walk away happy that’s cool with me. My style is British tapas in a relaxed environment

Talk us through designing a whole new menu for 1251- where does creation/development of dishes start for you and your team?

 Well I work closely with all my suppliers on what's new coming in and working with the changing seasons. I’m half Scottish/West Indian from a small seaside town in Kent so, I try to take ideas from those three places.

goat by James Cochran
goat by James Cochran

 What dishes on your menu best showcases your cooking style?

 Crab tartlet, sea purslane and buttermilk; jerk spiced hake, watermelon, yogurt, seaweed, coriander; organic Kent breed lamb, smoked Cods roe, black olive, garlic and toasted oat custard tart, raspberries, clotted cream, pepper

Which ingredients do you love working with and why?

 Tough question! My favourite season has to be autumn and winter when game season starts. I enjoy working with partridges, quails, pheasants, wild mushrooms, Douglas fir and its all on your door step. You just can’t beat English produce!

Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date and why?

 My mum she’s the reason I got into cooking and she is my biggest influence on maintaining a high standard and to keep pushing. Brett Graham from the Ledbury got the best out of me and I learnt a lot from him.

mackerel by James Cochran
mackerel by James Cochran

Do you strive to achieve accolades and what do you think is the key to success in the restaurant industry?

The key to success is a tough question, I have just started out and I’m not sure what the future holds but if you can put a smile on the customers face that is good enough for me. Always try to maintain a high standard and never stop pushing.

Having worked under top chefs how easy has it been to find your own style and niche?

It took a long time to find my style,  you have the tools and skills built into you from working with top chefs. It took me years to find my own style and to know where I want to go with my food.

What are your plans for the future – will there be more restaurants on the cards?

 Yes! 1251 has a few things kept under wraps but my main game is to get 1251 to be a successful well run business.

What advice would you give other chefs looking to open their own restaurant?

Don’t rush and believe in your concept and never change for anyone else. I’ve made a lot of mistakes throughout my cooking career but you learn from your mistakes and move on.

What’s the hardest part of opening your own place?

 Being able to put your trust in your team. You want to do everything yourself but to be able to grow the business you need to let your team grow with you.

jessicajillphotography 18 low res


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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th October 2018

NEW VIDEO: James Cochran, Chef Owner, 1251 Restaurant