Gourmet meals for the ICU – A restaurateur feeds NHS staff
Bro Seb Giroux investigates
Some of you may already have wandered down Gray’s Inn Road, just North of Chancery Lane. Perhaps you’ve even been attracted by the façade at number°182. And, if you looked closer, you might have seen a row of empty wine bottles and, through the windows, the tables, velvety seats, lights and the whole décor of a quirky yet classy restaurant – the domain of Bro Otto Tepasse.
Bro Otto was born in May 1956 in a small village of Bavaria (Germany) called Frauenstetten. His family was already working in the hospitality sector, so it was without surprise that young Otto chose a career in catering. In the mid-1970s, he trained as a chef in the highly demanding kitchens of some of the top Parisian restaurants such as The Plaza Athénée, Maxims and La Tour d’Argent. During these formative years, he got exposed to the dazzling theatre that is French Haute Cuisine, an experience so rich that he would aim to recreate it in his own restaurant one day.
Soon, he decided to learn English, and to that end, he moved to London in 1976. He found his feet quickly by cooking in some of the most famous restaurants of the time, such as Mirabelle, Mossiman’s and Inigo Jones. For over thirty years, Bro Otto focused time and energy solely on his two passions, high-quality food and his family. He remained firmly attached to London, waiting patiently for his dream to come within reach. That was going to be in 2011. That year, he opened his restaurant, aptly named Otto’s.
His ambition has always been simple: to prepare high-quality meals, to cook them well, and to bring some of the lustre and extravagance he had witnessed in Paris back in the quiet serenity of his room. His speciality embodies it all. The canard à la presse may have been borrowed from the French. Still, the peculiar apparatus, the table-side showmanship and the patience it requires could almost make it quintessentially British.
Having achieved his lifelong goal, he turned to other interests. History doesn’t tell us who introduced him to Freemasonry. Perhaps one guest hoped to acquire an exclusive recipe in exchange for different kinds of secrets? Suffice to say, Bro Otto was initiated into Clapham Lodge No 1818 in January 2016, and his restaurant became more than ever a regular dining venue for many brethren.
But a disaster named Covid was coming. Early in 2020, Bro Otto’s daughter Lydia contracted the virus in New York and sadly passed away. Then, England entered in lockdown, forcing restaurants to close. Bro Otto was not one to switch everything off and wait for the storm to subside. With his wife, they learned how NHS staff, especially in Intensive Care Units (ICU), only had junk food to sustain themselves. That was not acceptable. Within three days, the whole staff voluntarily came back into the kitchen and prepared nutritious meals for the ICU staff at St Thomas’ Hospital. Every day until mid-June 2020, they cooked and delivered three-course meals. They started again in January 2021.
As part of his drive to “feed the NHS”, Bro Otto also welcomed young offenders on work experience. He also offered his full support to two young refugees who had survived a perilous journey to England. Under care from the Hammersmith & Fulham Council, and with Bro Otto’s invaluable assistance, they found a path to integrate into British society by preparing takeaway meals for the public to raise funds for the NHS.
For Clapham Lodge’s members, the generosity and dedication of their friend are perhaps even more valuable than his culinary talents. They all decided to support him in his selfless endeavour and raised £4,315, which they presented to him in February 2021, accompanied by three staff from St Thomas’.
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 44 April 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 44.