Chef Elizabeth Allen learned early on that good food brings people together. With extensive experience cooking throughout London, she's now getting ready to open up her own restaurant. Her passion for the camaraderie of the kitchen combined with a background in the precise world of architecture and a lifelong love of food has given her the confidence to jump in and get started.
After years of studying to be an architect at London’s Central St. Martins, Elizabeth Allen grew weary of the long, tedious hours behind a computer. Having grown up in a family where food and its preparation played a prominent role, her thoughts began to move toward the kitchen. And in 2010, she traded in the pencils for a sharp set of knives.
“Cooking was something that I had grown up with,” she says. “And it also seemed to be a natural extension of architecture, yet with quicker results. Don’t get me wrong; I still love architecture and the creative process involved in the design, but sitting behind the computer got to me. I wanted to be on my feet, surrounded by people, making something that I could see firsthand rather than in a few years.” Allen’s Singaporean background exposed her to a wide range of culinary flavors and styles at an early age. And it cemented a love and passion for food’s ability to bring people together—a passion that is evident in her cooking today.
Allen has quickly risen to become one of London’s leading chefs, working for a variety of establishments where she has experienced restaurant culture in all its flavors. She learned to butcher under the guidance of Neil Rankin at Smokehouse Islington, something that she credits as one of the most valuable experiences of her career. Here, Allen learned and eventually mastered not only the art of butchering and smoking, but also how to run a kitchen—a skill that will no doubt come in handy with her next endeavor. “Each experience that I’ve had has, in some way or another, translated into how I work in a kitchen. Beginning at the Greene Oak, Windsor as a commis, I learned how to be strong and hold my own and what it means to be in a kitchen,” she says.
With stints at different Michelin-starred restaurants, Allen immersed herself in the highly competitive world of Michelin while making sure to expose herself to cooking in all its manifestations. Allen explains, “I also freelanced for a period, working all over London doing catering and private events and dining. I wanted to learn all angles of the industry.”
As the rising culinary star approaches her fourth year of cooking, she looks toward a new phase—opening her own place under her own flag. Her first restaurant under Kaizen House will remain a secret until the new year but aims to open in September 2017 along with the hopes of a second location opening in 2018. She is going to design and build a space where people can relax in good company while eating great food. “I want my place to create a connection and show people how we are linked to food. Forget the white tablecloths. It’s about a different experience and about the comfort and common bonds that food can create. The challenge for me is to translate that idea into my cooking.”
Looking back at the beginning of her career, one can sense that Allen is fearless. Her first stint in the kitchen took place in the high-stakes cooking show MasterChef: “I love the camaraderie of the kitchen. The heat of the moment, the pressure and the results of creating something constantly. It’s very satisfactory.” As for being a female chef in a male-dominated industry, Allen prefers to focus on the tasks at hand. She says, “We are alway just trying to cook good food.”
Allen hasn’t forgotten her early training. In fact, she credits her architecture background in her quick success, saying, “It’s helped me to be more organized, and manage people and large-scale projects.” But the kitchen is where Allen truly thrives.
Photography:Marsy Hild Thorsdottir
Styling:Lilja Hrönn Helgadóttir