Chef and restaurateur
Founder, Symplicity Foods
Scottish chef Neil Rankin is a pioneer of London’s high-end barbecue scene who cut his teeth in fine dining kitchens. Following stints at meat-centric London establishments such as Smokehouse, Pitt Cue Co. and Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa, he opened Temper restaurant in 2016, which now has three branches in the capital.
Temper’s focus on sustainability led Neil to his latest venture, Symplicity, which creates plant-based ‘meats’ and other plant-based products using fermented vegetables. Proving that vegan substitutions don’t need ultra-processed ingredients to taste good, Symplicity now supplies some of the country’s top restaurants and Michelin-starred chefs.
As a meat specialist, fermentation expert and science graduate, Neil found himself uniquely placed to develop his own plant-based meat and cheese products. He worked in secret over the course of two years, developing his own unique ways of creating flavour-packed, satisfying recipes using fermentation.
Symplicity launched in 2019 with its flagship Symplicity Burger, which is made with naturally fermented mushroom, onion and beetroot. Today, Symplicity Foods supplies its vegan ingredients nationwide – both via an online store and to a myriad of esteemed restaurant clients. These include Dishoom, Soho House, Gordon Ramsay Restaurants, Burger & Lobster, Bleecker Burger, Homeslice Pizza and many more.
Symplicity operates with a zero-waste ethos. The fermentation process uses all-waste ingredients – and even the liquid extracted is used in vegan sauces such as nduja and ragu. Neil’s mission is to offer amazing taste without the detrimental cost to our environment. Symplicity uses local agriculture, as well as adopting a ‘low air mile’ approach to reduce their carbon footprint.
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Neil came to cooking relatively late in life after completing a physics degree, doing a stint as a sound engineer and opening a chain of sandwich bars. At the age of 29, he trained at a Cordon Bleu culinary school, going on to work in French restaurants including the award-winning French Table in Surbiton.
Neil then retrained at the Tante Marie Culinary Academy (now the Gordon Ramsay Academy). He next went on to work for Nuno Mendes, who was hosting 10-course supper clubs in his loft, and the two Michelin-starred Michael Wignall, who was then heading the Latymer at Pennyhill Park Hotel. From there, Neil went on to do a number of Michelin stages, before ending up at Rhodes Twenty Four in the city.
Neil pivoted to the world of barbecue following a role at Barbecoa with acclaimed American chef Adam Perry Lang. This inspired Neil to open (and head chef for) the original Pitt Cue in Soho. It was wildly successful, winning numerous accolades and gathering queues that stretched around the block.
Neil moved on to head up the highly acclaimed John Salt restaurant in Islington, and then Smokehouse – which was then the UK’s only real wood barbecue restaurant. Smokehouse received unanimous critical acclaim and went on to open a second site in Chiswick. Neil also opened and managed Bad Egg, an all-day diner that showcased a lot of Neil’s passions including Korean and barbecue food.
In 2016, Neil opened Temper restaurant in partnership with managing director Sam Lee, which has now expanded to three sites across London. Temper features an open barbecue kitchen in the middle of each restaurant, with live fire cooking happening in front of guests’ eyes. Their chefs butcher in-house with a low-waste approach, using high-welfare, grass-fed meat from small UK farms.
Neil’s book, Low and Slow: How to Cook Meat, was published by Ebury Books in 2016 to rave reviews, topping several bestseller lists against other chef cookbooks. Encompassing all of Neil’s knowledge about how to perfectly cook various meats (and banishing a few myths along the way), Low and Slow has been endorsed by famous chef Tom Kerridge, Grace Dent and Fay Maschler, to name a few.
In the 9th series of BBC’s Great British Menu, Neil competed for the region of Scotland, battling it out against two other Scottish chefs. The brief: create a menu to honour the men and women involved in the D-Day landings. Like many other chefs on TV shows, Neil has also gone on to demonstrate his skills and charisma on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen.