Think fine dining and rock ‘n’ roll don’t go together? Think again. Lee Tiernan is one of London’s most exciting chefs and his restaurant Black Axe Mangal, along with its suitably rock name and décor, has diners queuing to try his Turkish-fusion dishes. Having cut his teeth in eateries from London to Copenhagen, he’s now redefining the dining scene with his no-fuss, big-flavoured approach to food. Read on to discover more about Lee and what makes him different…
Rock ‘n’ roll and fine-dining are quite a contrast. What was the inspiration behind your restaurant Black Axe Mangal and the cuisine?
I’d say we are in a genre of our own; we really love music and playing loud music, it’s never been a gimmick for us. If you had a band, and you played the same 10 songs forever people would get bored. If you’re into music and you start playing, you want to evolve, you put what makes you feel good out and that’s what we do.
Tell us about your journey from an outdoor grill in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district to your own restaurant in London.
It’s definitely been a journey, and we didn’t for one minute think that this would happen. It all started off as a joke to be honest, but then people started to get the joke. It became a bit more serious after that, but I’ve always tried to the keep it light. We always wanted people to come and have a party – it’s evolved a lot since the beginning.
What can someone expect going into your restaurant?
I hope that people expect to have a good time, and experience some food that they haven’t had before. We do a lot of crazy stuff…
I’m petrified of being mediocre, and I think that’s what drives me to think outside of the box.
Where do you get your inspiration to create new dishes?
We always to have high impact flavours and this is influenced by the music we play, it’s always really high impact and loud.
Working in restaurants in New York to Paris, your background speaks for itself. When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
I kind of misled myself into thinking what being a chef actually involved. The first cheffing job I had was in the Virgin Islands. You could drink and have a laugh, and I really enjoy the camaraderie of cooking. Then I found I really enjoyed the process, cooking and eating, then I found my own style within that – sounds really cheesy.
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming chefs who want to open their own restaurants?
It’s always good to have ambition. If you’re just starting out definitely turn up to work on time. Definitely listen to what you’re told, but also listen to yourself. If you feel like you’re not getting much out of the kitchen you’re in then don’t be afraid to move around. I’d suggest working for free in restaurants which will give you work experience, it’s a great way of seeing lots of different people’s perspectives and approach whilst not committing full time. It’s also a great way of learning what you want to do.
Have Dr. Martens always been a part of your style?
It definitely was part of my style when I was younger, I had quite a few pairs. When I was around 17, no one wore anything else… you had to have Dr. Martens. Now, my kids have all got Doc’s for school.
What makes you DIFFERENT?
You know, I’ve actually got a massive ginger beard. But more seriously, I’m petrified of being mediocre, and I think that’s what drives me to think outside of the box.