Full name: Camille Tardieu
Role: Chef & Founder of Southbound
DOB: 6th September 1989
Birthplace: Provence, France
Twitter Handle: @southboundldn
Fun Fact: “Despite what I do, I am a recipe rebel, I don’t like to follow recipes!”
So, let’s start at the beginning. You’re a self-taught French-Silician chef who picked up the bug for running supperclubs after moving to London in 2011 to finish your neuroscience PHD. Could you tell us a little about your upbringing and your influences? Your Dad is a wine merchant and you were raised in an environment where food and drink was very important, right?
Growing up in the Mediterranean, where food and cooking are incredibly central to daily life, is really where my love of cooking began. From my grandmother’s Soupe au Pistou to my uncle’s barbecued mussels, to my father’s passion for wine, for me taste is always bound up with memory in some way – and I think that’s true for all of us. My cooking is inspired by Mediterranean flavours and techniques, but it’s also shaped by my food memories – and that’s something I invite diners to experience when they visit my supper clubs.
As I understand it, the food scene in London was something of an eye opener for you? Could you tell us a little more about that? What was it about moving here that made you decide to start with the supper clubs?
In most areas of France, the majority of the restaurants are French. But in London, you can eat food from around the world while only travelling a couple of streets. This incredible fusion inspired me to really begin experimenting with different cultures through food. As a city that is so open to trying new things, there are fantastic opportunities here for young chefs. It was the perfect place to found Southbound, my supper club and private catering company.
What’s the deal with the neuroscience doctorate now that you’re going into cooking? Are you going to do both of these things in tandem? I suppose you could fit supper clubs around research…maybe?
Neuroscience and working as a chef are two things that need your total focus. It really clicked for me last year that my true passion is cooking, and so when I finish my PHD in the Autumn I’ll be focusing purely on Southbound – which I’m very excited about.
Have you found any crossovers between neuroscience and cooking?
There are some crossovers, but these are only really on the surface. I’ve never been a fan of molecular gastronomy; I’m more interested in creating beautiful flavours through my senses than through science.
In your chef’s opinion – what do you believe to be the most overrated and underrated ingredients?
I think all ingredients have amazing potential depending on how they are cooked, so it’s hard to think of a single ingredient that is overrated. Having said that, I have an aversion for cooking trends and do my best to avoid them. I think sometimes the power of using aromatic herbs can be underappreciated – using fresh herbs has huge potential to transform the dishes you are cooking.
What’s a ‘day in your life’ like? Could you give us an insight into the life of the neuroscientist/chef?
Juggling my time between my lab work and Southbound has its challenges! Once I’m finished in the lab, I spend my time planning menus, preparing orders, and managing the business side of Southbound. We’ve just started delivering our artisan pastries in Zone 1, so as well as preparing for our next supper club (A Journey Through Summer, 20 May) I’ll also spend time managing those orders. In the evenings, I’ll often cook – perhaps working on an idea I had during the day and experimenting until I get it right.
What’s your greatest/most memorable professional moment been, so far?
I think my most memorable moment so far was the point at which it clicked that I definitely wanted to move from neuroscience into cooking full time. There was a day when the Southbound website went live, and I realised this was for real!
Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas mainly come from childhood memories. Sometimes they are more abstract and instinctive, for example when I’m trying to create a particular flavour. However, they are primarily inspired by some form of food memory – however deeply buried it is in my subconscious.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had, how did you overcome it, and what did you learn from it?
I am constantly having new ideas for Southbound, and at the moment my greatest challenge is having enough time to make them all reality.
Who’s the person who’s most inspired you in your work – food industry or otherwise? Is there anyone that you draw inspiration or strength from? Do you have any specific culinary influences?
My Sicilian grandmother is the person who has inspired my cooking the most. Her knowledge and passion for food taught me a lot. One of her (often extremely frustrating!) teaching methods, was to refuse to share recipes with me. She insisted that I needed to learn to create the dishes myself from taste, rather than using directions. I think this is where my obsession with flavour comes from!
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?
The thing I enjoy most about cooking is the process from creating a dish in my mind, to bringing it to life on the plate. I learn so much on the way each time, and I love sharing the results with others.
What advice would you give to aspiring chef entrepreneurs who’d want the kind of results that you’ve had?
I’d advise a new chef to focus on taste, to ignore food fads, and to learn their craft – knowledge is everything.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing instead?
There is nothing else I would rather be doing.
If you could get anyone to try your food (fictional or real, living or dead) who would you pick and which of the dishes would you like them to try? Assume that they go on to be your brand ambassador…
At the risk of sounding very cheesy, I have to say that I really love cooking for anyone who enjoys food!
What’s your ultimate aim and goal for Southbound and your career? If you could achieve anything with it, what would you pick? Money and reality are no obstacle, so shoot for the moon…
My ultimate goal is to launch a permanent restaurant where flavour is everything.
Where next for you and the business?
Our next supper club is A Journey Through Summer on 20th May. We’ll be continuing to have regular supper clubs, and we’re also on the lookout for a semi-permanent pop-up – watch this space!
And we always ask three customary ridiculous questions…
If you had a time machine that could send you backward in time as far as you wanted (without any logical paradoxes, timeline contamination, etc.) – what period of time would you visit and what are the first 3 things you’d do once you got there?
I’d travel to the moment humans discovered how to make fire. I wouldn’t bring anything back – I’d leave everything as it was.
If you had to have any character from Greek mythology come and work in your kitchen, who would you employ?
I would say either Apollo, as passion is so important in cooking, or Odysseus for the knowledge of different food cultures that comes with travelling.
If you were given an infinite budget but had to spend it all on entirely frivolous stuff, what are the first 3 things you’d buy, and why?
I would buy:
– a selection of the world’s finest cheeses
– vintage bottles of Vin de paille, St Joseph or Chateauneuf du Pape
– and a plane ticket to somewhere secluded and incredibly beautiful, say Ushuaia.
I love cheese more than any other food.
Old and rare wines are incredibly intense experiences.
Being alone in breathtaking landscapes is my idea of luxury.