Thomas Straker became famous for his TikTok recipes, although he doesn’t like it when people point that out. He protests that he’s a serious cook – he has worked at Elystan Street, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and The Dorchester – but most people know him as the butter guy. It’s hard to avoid that label when his flavoured butter recipes have led to a following of 2.1 million people. His TikToks are perfectly constructed using schizophrenic jump cuts and ASMR narration and he likes to make viewers salivate over his Bloody Mary butter, Biscoff butter, tequila butter, and bone marrow butter. Here’s him doing something indecent with chicken skin:
Straker Industries was all going perfectly. His restaurant, unimaginatively named Straker’s, has become something of a West London hangout. It received an excellent review from the Times restaurant critic Giles Coren and then ended up in the top 100 in the National Restaurant Awards. And he has just started a dairy division called All Things Butter (his range of flavoured butters will be in supermarkets soon) and last week he opened a second outlet Flatbread in Battersea Power Station. He told the Times he is set to launch another site in Notting Hill later this year. This handsome, motorbike-riding chef is ‘making West London cool again’.
Then he posted a picture on Instagram of his chefs at Straker’s and got pilloried. All eight of the cooks are white men. Ah, the optics, the optics. Thousands of commenters said things like ‘oh dear’, ‘are you afraid of women?’, ‘do some reflection’ or simply ‘be better’.
In a show of resistance, Straker told everyone to ‘calm down’, adding that ‘if you feel so passionately please go and gather CVs of any chefs you think we’re missing in the team.