With a taste of success at his two Worthing restaurants and Brighton eatery, the MasterChef winner is turning his considerable talent to burgers Tutt-style

Kenny Tutt is a busy man. When the Worthing-based 2018 MasterChef champion isn’t creating ‘unintimidating’ dishes at his fine dining restaurant Pitch, or delicious brunches and graze-all-day plates at Bayside Social, he’s going into partnership with Harvey’s Brewery for his pub grub eatery Ox Block and smashing up burgers for his all-new American-style diner Patty Guy.

‘No, not smashing up burgers,’ Kenny, 40, laughs, correcting me. ‘Smashed burgers.’ The difference is not subtle. One comes as a complete patty while the other is, well, annihilated before flaming. ‘Our burgers are made into a ball of steak which is placed on the grill and smashed up using a burger smasher. It means the burger is thinner and cooks faster but with all the juices and flavours intact. It’s a winner, believe me.’

Now on his fourth restaurant since holding aloft his MasterChef trophy, the Santander banker turned celebrity chef Kenny is hungry for success – and more than a little obsessed with food.

‘It’s true,’ he says, ‘If I’m not cooking, I’m eating and if I’m not doing either of those I’m thinking about cooking or eating or what to create next. I’m always moving, looking forward to the next thing. But I want to get it right. I’m not rushing anything – this is all happening at the right time.’

We caught up with Kenny in a quick-fire Q & A session to find out more about his growing portfolio of restaurants and get a taste of his very hectic life right now...

Sussex Life: So why a burger bar?

Great British Life: Kenny's smashed burger is, er, smashingKenny's smashed burger is, er, smashing (Image: supplied)

Kenny: I’ve always loved burgers and am a huge fan of McDaddy’s. I wanted to create my favourite burger but on steroids. So, I decided on an American Diner style restaurant where I could serve burgers, milk shakes, fries and sides. It’s a brilliant place for families or for a first date. It’s casual, affordable but stylish and fun, too. I’m a burger purist, so I’ve spent a lot of time making and tasting these burgers to make them perfect. You can have them with cheese, gherkins, bacon chilli cheese fries, the whole lot. I think it’s going to be a popular place.

SL: But you’re changing another one of your restaurants, too – isn't that a lot to take on at once?

K: I’m not taking on more than I can chew (laughs). I’ve always had a passion for food and not just for fine dining so I feel that now’s the right time to create venues for different palates. Ox Block [which is based on a Japanese smoking robata grill-style of cooking] has moved from where we were in Brighton’s Shelter Hall – the city’s first food hall - to one of my favourite pub’s The Lord Nelson Inn, in Trafalgar Square, in the North Laines in Brighton.

We’ve formed a partnership with the local brewery Harvey’s which is exciting and we’re all about pub grub with a twist, so we have devils on horseback (dates wrapped in bacon), with quail’s eggs, High steaks, Gunpowder chicken and deep-fried Oreo. It’s all stuff I would like to eat but it’s not your average pub food. The pub and Harvey’s are both iconic and so it’s a dream for me. I’ve even created Harvey’s beer braised onions which are incredible. And now that we’ve taken over the kitchen at The Nelson Inn, Patty Guy has moved into Shelter Hall so I have two places in Brighton.

SL: And what about the two restaurants in Worthing?

Great British Life: Seaside chic: Bayside Social in Kenny's hometown of WorthingSeaside chic: Bayside Social in Kenny's hometown of Worthing (Image: supplied)

K: They’re still going well. Pitch is an occasional destination where you can go for a culinary adventure, without it being intimidating. Bayside Social is right on the seafront and is all about breakfasts, brunching and lots of small plates to share. It’s fun creating the menus and tweaking them to stay fresh.

SL: How do you stay so thin if you’re having to taste the food all the time?

Great British Life: Gordon Ramsay told Kenny: 'Keep it seasonal.' He followed his adviceGordon Ramsay told Kenny: 'Keep it seasonal.' He followed his advice (Image: Credit: Jim Holden / Alamy Stock Photo)

K: I’ve turned 40 now and everything sticks to me! But I run around and having the kids [Emily, eight and Grace, five, with wife Lucy, 36] and doing 11-hour shifts helps. I don’t eat normally at all either – it all depends on which dish I’m making or trying to perfect. I could be trying chocolate fondant at 8am. It’s rare that I get to eat an actual meal though, most days I’m just picking and trying bits. Sometimes when I get home from work I’m starving as I’ve been too busy to eat, and I’ll have an omelette.

SL: Do you ever manage to get time off to be with the family?

K: I’m not always working. I live by the beach and I love going for a walk with the kids. I like playing on the Xbox and we’re taking the girls to Disney in Florida in the summer and I can’t wait. I’m going on everything!

SL: Who is your food hero?

K: I love Keith Floyd, especially when he was cooking and getting inebriated. Rick Stein and Marco Pierre White are favourites too, as well as Tom Kerridge and Tommy Banks. I met Gordon Ramsay after MasterChef and he was lovely. We had a coffee and he gave me a lot of support. I told him about Pitch before I opened it and he said: “Keep it seasonal.” We’ve exchanged a few text messages since. I listen to him.

SL: If you could invite anyone to dinner who would it be?

K: My dad, Kenny. He was Big Kenny and I was Little Kenny. He passed away and didn’t see me on MasterChef. He was a massive foodie and would have been so proud to have seen me win the show. I’d love to spend one night cooking for him and showing him how well I’ve done. I’d cook him a beautiful skate wing, or some grilled fish, salad and chips.

If I have to choose someone famous it would be Anthony Bourdain who was an American celebrity chef and food writer, or Freddie Mercury. They’re all dead – I'm a bit macabre! I’d make Freddie a burger with all the pizazz. He'd love that, I’m sure.

SL: What’s your signature dish – surely not a burger?

K: No. It would be fish – lemon sole with caper butter and shoe string fries. If I was on a desert island, I could catch the fish and cook it straight out of the water. I’d eat that every day and be happy. If it was something ‘dirty’ I’d go for deep fried chicken. It depends what mood I’m in.

SL: What’s been the highlight of your career since winning MasterChef?

K: That’s easy. Stepping into my first restaurant Pitch and having people come down to eat there. An elderly couple came for their 50th wedding anniversary and they were so happy. It was a pinch me moment. I can’t believe that was my hobby is now my career.

SL: So, you don’t regret giving up working as a bank manager for Santander to follow your dream?

K: Laughs. No though sometimes I do appreciate the hours I did then. I was sitting behind a screen all day processing people’s loans and finishing at 6pm. Now it’s so different. I’m my own boss and have a team of around 100 people. No day is the same. It’s exciting and when you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t seem like work, does it?

Lucy’s involved too. She’s in charge of operations, and behind the scenes. She tastes the food, too.

SL: Does she ever criticise it?

Great British Life: Pub grub but not as you know it at Kenny's Ox BlockPub grub but not as you know it at Kenny's Ox Block (Image: supplied)

K: Yes, she’ll say if it’s not good. I can’t get narked about it – I need to take the feedback. That’s how you grow. One thing she said constantly was about the portion size – she'd say one of my dishes could feed five people. So, I’ve learnt to make them smaller.

SL: Where do you eat when you go out?

K: I keep going back to Bincho Yakitori on Preston Street in Brighton. It’s Japanese but based on traditional izakayas found throughout Japan which are bars where you have a drink and snacks. If I’m going posh it would be etch. in Hove and I like Goodwood’s Farmer Butcher Chef restaurant.

SL: What’s next?

K: I would love a nice place with rooms that makes a statement, a bit like Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire. Guests could come for lunch, go for country walks, and a spa, then stay after a delicious dinner. That’s the dream.