Rebeltalk Podcast

The Rebel Chef: Neil Rankin

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By Mark Choueke on 16th August 2019

Neil Rankin getting serious with the RebelTalk team

Neil Rankin was a rebel long before he was a chef. He was always rebellious. I only know this because I lived with him at university and we’ve remained good mates ever since.

I knew when I met him that he was a special blend of fun and trouble. He wasn’t a rebel because he swore a lot, took drugs and loved going out: you’d expect little else of a student who’d escaped his home in Edinburgh to come and party in late-1990s Manchester. 

No, Neil was a rebel because even when he’s had to face up to almost impossible odds - be it a fight he knew he couldn’t win, or life deciding that a given day seemed a good time to be cruel to Neil - he never stopped believing in himself. 

Neil Rankin is nothing if not self-aware and he doesn’t do airs and graces. Or as he’d probably say in his growly Edinburgh drawl, he doesn’t pretend to be ‘a posh twat’. Moreover, he stands his ground, fights and argues tirelessly for what he sees as right and fair and will call out cowardice or wrong no matter what might happen to him as a result. I’ve seen him do it it many times.

Anyone who follows him on social media has seen it:

When it comes to socil media Neil tends to err on the side of discretion

Anyone he’s hired to work with him has seen it:

FrontlineChef. Job Ad.

Are you a fucking good head Chef, sous chef or any chef and want to work in an exciting open kitchen with killer vibes and huge big open fire pit. Do you want to butcher whole animals and have a career where we don’t do the same boring shit all the time in a little white room. Do you want to burn your arms a bit, get chirpsed by customers and make food from some of the best produce in the world while blasting out 80’s pop and 90’s hip hop. If this sounds like the sort of thing you’d like get in touch now 👍 p.s roles available at all 3 sites.

And, as a guy who’s more interested in cooking delicious meals for diners than he is in winning a Michelin Star, his customers have seen it. Or rather, they’ve tasted it.

Because the other thing about Neil is that he doesn’t really care for rules. 

Already a successful chef before he opened his first Temper restaurant, he still had a job to do to convince his investors that a huge central fire pit in a Soho venue on which to barbecue meat and serve with tacos and mezcals was a good idea.

By the time he opened his Temper ‘Two’ in London’s financial district his investors had seen the success of the first restaurant and were more ready to listen to Neil’s dream of mixing barbecue with curry.

Now, with two successful London restaurants under his belt and a third on the way (barbecue and pizza - of course - in Covent Garden), you’d be forgiven for thinking Neil Rankin has been at the food game his whole life. But in fact, he only really came to cooking in his 30s with some failed businesses and one failed marriage behind him.

Now he’s the talk of the London food scene - Temper in Soho was recently named Best Newcomer in the Observer Food Monthly awards and every critic from Grace Dent through Jay Rayner to Giles Coren has given rave reviews.

But Neil still talks and acts like he did when we were teenagers. He competes in Scotch Egg competitions for fun and will give up a night being a celebrity if there’s a Domino’s pizza on offer (if, that is, the Domino’s franchisee can replace the standard tomato sauce with the brand’s “far superior” sun-dried tomato sauce).

RebelTalk is co-hosted by Mark Choueke and Nicole Lyons, and produced by Meg Wright.

Episodes are recorded and engineered by Hard Six Audio. Special thanks to Spiritland Studio.

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