Words & Portraits Kirk Truman
“There’s always been an element of competition about food which I’ve enjoyed… it’s the challenge that I strive for.”
We’re walking around the busy kitchen at Percy & Founders. It’s midweek, and the place is still buzzing even at the very end of the lunch hour. While chefs cook, chop and stir at every turn, at the reins is the newest addition to this central Fitzrovia restaurant, Head Chef Jon Van der Mije.
Born and raised in Nice in the south of France, Jon’s relationship with food started early. “I was quite young, just 15, when food began to interest me. My grandfather was a chef, and he would show me a few things from time to time.”
Though his grandfather lived in Spain, Jon visited him on a regular basis, and the two would spend much of their time cooking together, trying new dishes and practising the traditional arts of braising and cooking with wine. “He always captivated me with his cooking, and after a while food took a hold of me,” Jon remembers.
“My first job in a kitchen was in Cannes and it became a love of mine straight away. There’s always been an element of competition about food which I’ve enjoyed… it’s the challenge that I strive for. The role of a chef isn’t necessarily the easiest. It’s very time consuming, but it’s a good life for me. Any chef should take the same pride in what they do that, say, a doctor would take in his work.” When it comes to the menu at Percy & Founders, Jon’s favourite dish is vegetarian: stuffed courgette flower, ricotta, pine nuts, tomatoes & black olives, the roasted lamb loin & shoulder with charred aubergine and sheep’s yoghurt is another dish he is particularly fond of.
Jon has lived in London for eight years, having worked for a while in Australia, and joined Open House as Sous Chef three years ago. “I originally started out at Percy & Founders, then moved to The Lighterman when it opened last year. The Lighterman and Percy & Founders have each naturally evolved into a local restaurant, bar and hangout in the areas in which they’re based.” After a year at The Lighterman, Jon was rewarded for his hard work and huge talent in the kitchen with an invitation to return to Percy & Founders – this time as Head Chef.
“The food is not too dissimilar; everything we use in the kitchen is fresh and well sourced, mostly from just outside London.” Having opened in the summer of 2016, The Lighterman was an instant success. A pub and dining room over on King’s Cross Granary Square estate, it offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, with three terraces giving fine views across the square and the Regent’s Canal.
Located less than five minutes from Oxford Street, just off the junction of Berners and Mortimer Street, Percy & Founders is in an equally appealing location with a beautiful outdoor terrace away from the busy streets of Central London. Its dining room is situated adjacent to the recently restored Fitzrovia Chapel with stunning views of the surrounding square. The restaurant is a carefully crafted addition to Fitzroy Place, and, like the square itself – the first to be built in London in over 100 years – has quickly established itself as a favourite spot among local residents and workers.
Percy & Founders offers all-day food and drinks, from morning coffee and breakfast to lunch and dinner. Food is fresh and seasonal, with much of the menu sourced locally or from the very best of British suppliers: meat makes its way down from the Lake District, and fish comes from the Maldon-based speciality smokehouse Lambton & Jackson. I’d like to single out their traditional Sunday roast for special praise – it really hits the mark!
Now a prominent fixture in the Fitzrovia neighbourhood, Percy & Founders continues to evolve its menus and extend its private hire opportunities. And Jon, a true free spirit, loves working in the restaurant’s open kitchen environment. Watching him at work, quick on his feet as he cooks, it’s obvious that he is respected by colleagues and remains a team player amongst his busy cadre of predominately female chefs. Jon’s return to his old stomping ground as Percy & Founders’ new Head Chef finds him perfectly at home – right at the centre of one of Fitzrovia’s leading restaurants.