I've worked under Michelin-star chefs and won the Great British Menu - now I'm opening my own Manchester place

It's one of the most anticipated new openings of the year.
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Of all the new restaurant announcements we’ve had in Manchester over the last few months, there is one in particular that has really gotten people talking – Skof, which is scheduled to open at the end of May. 

This is the first solo project for chef Tom Barnes, a protégé of Simon Rogan, the mastermind behind the three Michelin-starred L’Enclume in the Lake District and a string of other successful restaurants under his UMBEL group.

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Tom is an exceptional chef in his own right, with one of the most impressive CVs in the UK restaurant business today. Now 35, he has worked in restaurants since he was 18 – all of them Michelin-starred. He won the prestigious Roux Scholarship in 2014, training at Restaurant Hof Van Cleve in Belgium. Some people may also recognise him as one of the winning chefs on the Great British Menu TV show in 2020. 

We caught up with Tom on the sidelines of the Northern Restaurant and Bar conference in Manchester to find out more about Skof and what it means for the Manchester food and drink industry. 

Skof is very much a personal project for Tom. Everything from the style of cuisine to the location has been carefully selected by him, informed by his past experiences. Speaking in a live interview at the NRB alongside his mentor Simon Rogan, he was reluctant to give too much away about specific menu items, but did say that one dish is favourite that he cooks for his dad. 

Chef Tom Barnes will be opening his first solo restaurant Skof in Manchester in spring 2024.Chef Tom Barnes will be opening his first solo restaurant Skof in Manchester in spring 2024.
Chef Tom Barnes will be opening his first solo restaurant Skof in Manchester in spring 2024.

He told ManchesterWorld: “We’re going to try and create a really fun restaurant, where everyone is welcome, nice music played, amazing, tasty food using producers from around the North West, Simon’s farm as well, up in the Lake District. The food is influenced from everywhere that I have worked – a little bit Nordic, a little French, a little Japanese, all using British ingredients, tie them all together and hopefully create something that is quite unique.”

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Tom has lived in Manchester for three years, having previously lived in the Cumbrian village of Cartmel, home to L’Enclume, for 12 years before that. Therefore, Tom is no stranger to the Manchester restaurant scene and says it’s “brilliant”.

He added: “I think there is something here for everyone. There’s such a wide array of amazing restaurants here, from really casual to high-end, fine-dining, whatever you want to call it. It’s such a big city, there’s something here for everyone and there’s a lot of potential for growth as well. I’m just super excited to get going and be a part of it, everyone has been super welcoming to me. When the news broke, a lot of people reached out to me, it was really nice. I’m just excited to get cracking.”

As it stands, Manchester only has one Michelin-starred restaurant. But there are signs that the fine-dining sector is starting to grow in Greater Manchester, such as the Michelin Guide’s decision to host its annual awards ceremony here in 2024

For now though, Michelin stars are not in Tom’s sights. He is focused on building a restaurant that Manchester can get excited about and providing a space for young chefs to grow, like Simon Rogan had done for him. 

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He said: “I’m just going to aim to do the best food that I can do and whatever comes with that, great. I’m 35 now, since I was 18 I’ve worked at Michelin, I’ve worked in two or three Michelin star restaurants, and I did that for a reason. I wanted to learn from these great chefs and now I’m going to try and take all that knowledge off them and put it into Skof and see what happens.”

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