Fast rises and slow cookers: the online life of a prolific London chef-patron, the chef-owner of Craft London, Palatino and Pastaio.

Stevie Parle was just twenty-four when he opened his first restaurant: the trailblazing Dock Kitchen. He may have been young, but this precocious and prodigiously talented young chef had already ratcheted up some seriously impressive experience. He cut his teeth at a roster of London’s most iconic restaurants, learning from the very best at The River Café, Moro and Petersham Nurseries. Feeling that the only place left to go to round off that education was St. John, he decided instead that it was time to go it alone.

Yet, winningly, Dock Kitchen didn’t go permanent overnight. It was 2009, and the pop-up movement was gaining momentum before hitting its peak. An early adopter of the model, what would later become an iconic eaterie to rival those he’d learned at began as a series of ‘squats’, as he has put it. These took place as one-night affairs in greasy spoons and even swimming pools; even without social media, they created a serious buzz amongst a cognoscenti thrilled to have stumbled across a looser, less formal and altogether cooler approach to dining out. But despite the pop-ups’ success, before long Stevie realised that he wanted to lay down more permanent roots.

As luck would have it, a friend of a friend knew that Tom Dixon had taken the lease on a site that Stevie had once looked round as a potential outpost for The River Café. When he asked Tom whether he might try a couple of dinners there, Tom agreed, built some wooden shanty sheds – and the rest is history. Celebrities were instant Dock Kitchen disciples, with Mick Jagger and Nigella among others crowding into the sheds night after night.



The Dock Kitchen may now have closed its doors, but Stevie remains prolifically busy. His latest venture, Pastaiao, already has two London sites and delivers inexpensive, simple and brilliant pasta dishes to its already loyal punters.

Named Young Chef of the Year in 2010, he has written three books (My Kitchen: Real Food From Near and Far; The Dock Kitchen Cookbook and Spice Trip, with Emma Grazette), with another in the pipeline. Here he serves up all his online favourites and the lessons he’s learned. The takeaway? When it comes to social media, it pays to be noisy.

My favourite website...

Ummmm, The Modern House, maybe. I can’t believe it’s an estate agent, but I love a browse and the editorial stuff is great

My favourite app...

Citymapper. It’s so smart and useful and gets me from restaurant to restaurant the quickest way possible.

My favourite blog...

I don’t really read any blogs these days I don’t think. Newspaper ones, but they don’t count.

My Internet hero...

Jack Monroe, whose website, Cooking on a Bootstrap, shares recipes for if you’re on a tight budget, detailing exact costs. It’s brilliant.

My favourite podcast...

There are loads I like at the moment. The Kitchen Is On Fire/TickyOff (do check out the latest coronavirus special episode), Reasons To Be Cheerful with Ed Milliband and Geoff Lloyd, which discusses big ideas. And I always have and always will love This American Life.



My favourite YouTuber...

Big Hass.

My most recent buy online...

A 1990s Missoni cardigan.

Last book you downloaded or read...

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk. Useful stuff.

Favourite tweeter...

Gary Usher, the fantastically sweary chef behind Elite Bistros.

Favourite Instagrammer...

@jacquemus.

Favourite tech gadget...

The driver assist/self-driving elements in my new car. I can’t wait for a fully automated one. I hate driving.

The most useful gadget on your desk...

I don’t have a desk but my most useful gadget in my kitchen is my smart pressure cooker slow cooker thing from Sage. I love it.

First thing/app you look at on your mobile when you wake up/in the morning...

Emails for the reports for the night before from the restaurants, and then Insta.

Last thing you binge-watched...

I don’t really binge, but Sex Education on Netflix was amazing.

Brands have you discovered online...

So many. Recently Petit Pli – kids clothes made out of recycled plastic bottles. They’re pleated so they ‘grow’ and fit your kids from nine months to four years.



Social media allowed me to meet...

So many good people...

The best digital advice I've been given...

Spend more money on websites.

My screensaver...

My puppy.

My standout online memory...

Back in the early days of street food there were loads of brilliant moments: people tweet-ups, with huge crowds turning up in car parks for Bao or fried chicken. It was golden.

My pet online hate...

I’m not really a pet hate kind of person, but if Twitter doesn’t sort out the bots and the trolls soon it’ll die, which will be a real shame as when it’s good it’s great.

Do you have any online rules or resolutions (such as a time your religiously switch off devices, for example?)

Not really, but I recently took all my work social accounts off my phone as I have someone else managing them and it was a good move.

As someone who runs a business at least in part online, what are your best bits of advice/ most interesting things you’ve learned?

You have to be noisy. Even as a brand. Think about how people might engage with what you’re going to say. Remember you have less than a second to engage people.

The Internet. On balance, a force for good or ill?

Good, of course.

By Nancy Alsop
March 2020

READ MORE

Guest Editor: Flora Shedden
Guest Editor: Paul A Young
Guest Editor: Olly Smith

Nancy Alsop

Editor

Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.

FIND OUT MORE