James Cochran (32) was born and raised in Whitstable, Kent and has been in the food biz for 16 years. Starting off as a kitchen porter at Wheelers Oyster Bar in his hometown, he managed to work his way up to chef over the course of four years. At 19 he went on to work at Reads in Faversham (1 Michelin Star) before moving to London to work at the esteemed Ledbury (2 Michelin Stars). After that came his position as sous chef at the Harwood Arms (London’s only pub with a Michelin Star) and now he’s got two restaurants of his own – JC EC3 and JC N1.
To celebrate the start of Saturday dinner service at his fabulous EC3 restaurant, we catch up with the talented chef to find out what tickles his pickle…
What’s your earliest food memory?
Cooking with my mum, she inspired me to become a chef at the age of 9.
Wow, so young! So what is it about food that keeps you excited?
There’s no greater buzz in the world then serving customers and putting a smile on their faces.
So where does your inspiration come from?
My roots. Kent, Scotland and the Caribbean. It took a lot of time to find my style of cooking and for me to realise I wanted to break away from that Michelin chef mould.
What does EC3 mean to you?
JC EC3 gave me the platform to express my food on a plate. Put simply it’s my baby. I’m lucky, I have a great team behind me who love the food and vision as much as I do.
Tell us about the ingredients you use?
I try to use what’s in season and respect what the UK has to offer, using ingredients when they are at their best.
All of our fish comes from either Kent, Scotland or Cornwall, whereas our meat is sourced from the Lake District. We get our veg from Glasgow.
What are some of your favourite new cooking techniques now?
The Japanese Konro Grill – I’m cooking everything in and on that bad boy at the moment.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu right now?
As we’re just rolling into Autumn right now, that means one thing – Game Season. For that reason it has to be the grouse with truffle gnocchi, fermented radicchio, plum wine, walnut crumb, miso bread sauce.
What’s the most popular dish on your current menu?
Jerk chicken, it’s a real crowd pleaser.
We’ve got to say your jerk chicken rocks our world. What advice would you give to young foodies aspiring to start their own restaurant?
Whoever your investors may be, just make sure that you all have the same vision and know exactly what it is that you want to achieve. Be firm with your direction from the start. It may sound obvious but only open when you have a fully functional restaurant – don’t get too excited and get ahead of yourself before you’re properly ready. I’m still learning every day. Whatever’s thrown at you though, remember not to stress, it’s not healthy.
Have you got a nightmare or funny service story to share with us?
For the launch night of EC3 we had all the press booked in and managed to cook for 30 covers with no electricity, a flooded kitchen, the gas had been cut off and then the rational combi oven went down. Got some banging reviews and don’t ask me how I did it but like I said, it only makes you stronger.
Is there any food that evokes strong feeling’s for you? Either happy or angry?
Street food makes me happy as it doesn’t put a hole in your pocket – it’s pretty accessible for all. Whilst Michelin stars on the other hand just don’t do it for me anymore, they feel a little old school. There’s a new wave of chefs hitting the scene churning out banging food.
Where do you think food is most exciting right now? London? Melbourne? USA? Europe?
London is saturated with restaurants with a food scene so off the charts it’s hard to keep up. I see London as my playground and can’t really imagine that changing. I’m also a massive fan of Chicago’s food scene right now – the street food was spot on and they make a great brunch to go.
What’s the one thing you miss about home (maybe something your Mum or Dad cooks)?
Being bought up by the coast, I really miss fresh seafood, it was a real treat for a young chef just starting out. Also, Sunday roasts – they always make me think of home.
What’s your favourite restaurant or street food either here in the UK or further afield.
I’ve just moved to Peckham so I’d like to give a shout out to Mr Bao – everything they do is on point especially those plum negronis.
If you want to feel at home, where do you go for a bite to eat in London when you’re not working?
Banh Banh, Begging Bowl, Coal Room, Crust Bros, Mr Bao, Peckham Bazaar, Silk Road.
Anything exciting in the pipeline? A new venture?
We just launched my 2nd restaurant (N1) in Angel, last month. It’s a more casual vibe to EC3, we’re focusing on English style flatbreads over there. I’ll also be launching my own craft beer soon, as well as scotch bonnet jam! All very exciting so keep your eyes peeled.
Thanks for the catch up James!
EC3 has just started a Saturday service, to book a table, visit the website: