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Chef’s Table visits the Italian Embassy

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Passport in hand, we entered the Italian Embassy in Grosvenor Square London. Moments later, after being shown the main dining room, the wine cellar (the WW2 Air Raid shelter) and the kitchen, we find ourselves, espresso in hand, sitting with Chef Danilo Cortellini.

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If Danilo looks familiar you may recognise him from the recent BBC MasterChef programme where he made it through to finals week, but more of that later.

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Danilo grew up in a small region of central Italy near the village of Civitella del Tronto, a town and comune in the Province of Teramo, within the Abruzzo region of central Italy. It is located in the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. He paints an idyllic picture of living between the mountains and the coast where his family’s property had a few Chestnut Trees. He attended a local school and during the holidays worked in coastal restaurants and hotels. Cooking was a large part of family life and Danilo has fond memories of the fruit and vegetables grown on the family’s land being used in all the dishes prepared. After finishing an intensive course at a regional catering college he travelled to Verona to work in a restaurant then called The Three Crowns owned by the famous pasta maker Giovanni Rana  situated on one of the main squares in Verona.

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The glass front to the restaurant kitchen became a tourist attraction with international visitors standing by the windows to watch the young Danilo making pasta.

Looking to increase his knowledge, Danilo moved to Imola and joined the kitchen at the 2 Star San Domenico restaurant.  It’s impressive wine cellar gave him the chance to learn more about local Italian wines and some of the best from around the world.

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After just a few months he was given the opportunity to be Chef de Partie of this two Michelin star kitchen where he remained for the next two years. He feels that during his time at San Domenico he was treated as part on the “family” in the kitchen and this has stayed with him.

Danilo says he found it hard to move on from San Domenico however he wanted to expand his knowledge further so moved to another 2 Star restaurant  Perbellini, this time, wishing to hone his pastry skills making everything from Panettone to very refined pastries for the dining room.

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In 2010, Danilo along with his girlfriend, made the move to London both joining the team at a small Italian restaurant near Green Park, London (part of the Dolada group) where he took the role of Sous Chef. After one year having taken some of the “hard knocks” London can deliver, he was determined to get to grips with the London restaurant industry and to find out “what i need to do” to succeed. He moved to the Allan Ducasse restaurant at The Dorchester

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Whilst only a brief engagement at the Dorchester, this experience reinvigorated him and he acknowledges that the hard work and discipline of working along side the Head Chef of this renowned french kitchen helped this Italian chef. At the end of 2011 he joined the team at Zafferano and it was whilst here he was approached to take on the Chefs position at the Italian Embassy in London.

In March 2012 he was offered the position of Head Chef at the Italian Embassy in London, a role which he still holds and gives him great pride and satisfaction, with the opportunity to cook for some of the most influential people in London and Europe. At the Embassy, he looks after the Ambassador and his family together with all of the banqueting and private dinners for visiting dignitaries, heads of state and royal families from across Europe.  Danilo explained that anyone visiting the Embassy is a guest not only of the Embassy, but of Italy and he prides himself on treating each one as a guest, and not a customer.

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This is my second Ambassador I have worked for he told us. When he arrived we discussed  a lot of detail of what would be required and first and foremost it would be to meet the needs of the Embassy. However,  the Ambassador supported the idea for me to set up my own company to not only service the Embassy but also corporate events and private dining. At the end of 2014 he opened  Danilo Cortellini Catering Service

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So, Chef, tell us about how MasterChef came about. I wanted to challenge myself so sent in an application, not expecting to be contacted. But they called and it was an amazing experience, a lot of pressure but very rewarding. I learnt a lot about myself and how and what I wanted to cook.

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Now chef, as we always do, we would like to ask you about the restaurants that are your ‘favourite tables’

Sushi Say (recently changed ownership and now called Sushi Masa) is one of my favourite places. We lived nearby and the husband and wife who ran the restaurant, and have done for years, became like friends. Everything feels authentic and the sushi is delicious. I really hope the new owners who have taken over when the original owners retired can maintain the high quality.

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I also, as often as I can, return to Italy to visit San Domenico.  I still love the food there. But recently I also visited the restaurant of a chef I have known for many years. It’s in the coastal town I used to visit and work in before coming to the UK. Ristorante Bistro 900 is in Giulianova run by chef Enzo Di Pasquale. This place reminds me of cooking at home with my family, using the best and freshest ingredients found locally.

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Can I also mention Pierre Koffmann, his pigs trotter dish is just amazing…thought you should know

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A Star and an Angel, Newcastle is doing well

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Last week Mrs. FT and I were driving back from Edinburgh, on the A1, so knowing we would be passing close to Newcastle we thought it could be a good idea to call in and see Chef Kenny Atkinson at House of Tides. We hoped that we could persuade Kenny to become one of our stellar Chef’s Tables.

Could we just turn up unannounced and sit down and chat… Mrs. FT came up with a plan of sorts – how about a little innocent bribery? A freshly shot large traditional Haggis was obtained, could Kenny resist?

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Luckily for us, Haggis is a favourite for this “just a Geordie lad” as Kenny describes himself.

He has always had a strong work ethic and can remember working at the local market when very young to get extra pocket money, even working in local pubs and bars, whilst slightly under age. Leaving school at sixteen with 6 GCSE’s Kenny had got the bug of working in pubs and behind the bar in hotels. So he approached an uncle who owned Ravensdene Lodge Hotel, planning to attend a Hospitality and Hotel Management course, focused on running a bar and cellar management. When it was pointed out that he was still too young to work legally behind the bar his uncle suggested that he start the catering specific course and work in the hotel kitchen.

Obtaining NVQ’s I & II with distinction he moved to a number of local restaurants gaining experience before a spell working in Crete. It was whilst working in a hotel in the Midlands that he worked through his fortnights holiday, without pay, for Simon Radley at his restaurant within the Chester Grosvenor Hotel and Spa. Following a conversation one evening with Chef Radley, Kenny took his advice and progressed his career by moving to London securing a position at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge, before moving to take on his first head chef position at a restaurant within the Greenway Hotel in Cheltenham, where he gained three AA Rosettes. The island living of Crete revisited and he moved with his young family to the Scilly Isles to work at the St Martin’s on the Isle restaurant. His first Michelin Star was awarded shortly after.

The family had the opportunity to move back to the North East when a new head chef position at the White Room restaurant within Seaham Hall in County Durham was offered. Soon after moving Kenny won his second Michelin star. It was whilst here in 2009 that the BBC came calling looking for a Chef from the North East Region to join the Great British Menu programme which he went on to win, with one of his dishes making it all the way to the final banquet.

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Kenny made a second appearance on the Great British Menu the following year as well as regularly being seen on Saturday Kitchen, also on the BBC. This television exposure help secure him a position heading up three restaurants at Rockcliffe Hall in County Durham, as Food Director. He was very candid about struggling with this position and the distance it place between him and the pass in the kitchen. He told us that the administrative role, which would stand him in good stead later, meant that he was not cooking as much as he wanted.

2012 and 2013 saw more Television appearances and number of “guest chef” events at a few of the UK’s best known restaurants including Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers in Marlow. It was around this time that the disciplines he learnt in the Food Director role paid dividends as, along with wife Abbie, early plans were developed to open their own restaurant. January 2014 saw the opening of House of Tides in Newcastle

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The restaurant, Kenny’s food and the food of Head Chef Danny Parker has received unanimous praise since it’s opening. His third Michelin star was awarded in 2015.

The bright lights of the TV studio will be shining on him again in 2016 with a new programme for Channel 4 will see Kenny following a few key ingredients from field/farm through to the kitchen and on to diners plates.

So chef, with all this going on, when you get a chance to eat away from your restaurant where would you consider to be your favourite tables:

Number one would be The Kitchin, in Leith, Tom Kitchin is an amazing chef with a great ethos in how food is sourced, then how much or how little the ingredients are prepared to maximise flavours. We have been here regularly and keep returning.

 

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I’m finding it impossible to pick between two other favourite tables we love, so i’d like to mention both.

The Black Swan at Oldstead incredible food and great service. This place looks like a gastro pub but is so much more.

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And Michael O’Hare’s Man Behind the Curtain the whole experience is fascinating. The restaurant, the food, all the artwork and Michael himself. All your senses are touched by every element of a dinner at man behind the curtain.

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A Chef’s Table with a view

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So Chef we have a lot in common, both grow up in Harlow in Essex, Both are ardent supporters of Tottenham Hotspurs and both love food – you cooking it and creating amazing dishes and me eating.

Did your interest in being a chef start at an early age, whilst you where living in Old Harlow.

I started in the summer holidays when I was 14 washing up at a local hotel in Old Harlow, my father had worked there and recommended me. One day the veg prep chef didn’t show up, so they asked me if I would like to earn an extra pound to do it and I’ve never looked back.

Tom went on to tell me that that he nearly went into banking working in the city. He was doing very well at school and was very good with numbers, and still is. He stayed working at the hotel and started cooking full time in that kitchen before he turned 16. He attended the local college and eventually apprenticing under the likes of Gary Rhodes and Michel Roux Jr. Spending three years at City Rhodes learning the ropes of a cuisine style he describes as leaning towards French technique and perfect in its simplicity.

Getting to working with Gary and his team at City Rhodes came about through a catering company, Gardner Merchant, I was working for them inside Barclays Bank Head Office and Gary was brought in to create a major dinner event. I could have taken the day off but stayed behind to see if I could help out. I must have done a good job as I was offered the job at City Rhodes which turned out to be a great experience for me. (My first Michelin kitchen)  They showed me the basics of cooking and how not to over complicate things but still delivering an amazing dish.

Tom then moved to Le Gavroche spending two years cooking classic French food under Michel Roux Jr, who he regards as an incredible teacher of culinary skills, before moving to The Capital Hotel, under head chef Eric Chavot, as chef de partie. Nathan Outlaw is now at The Capital who Tom worked alongside at City Rhodes as Commi’s. During Tom’s time at The Capital he discovered a style of cuisine that was very French, but also modern – “a different spin on French cuisine”, he says.

His next position was at double Michelin-starred restaurant Midsummer House in Cambridge working for chef patron Daniel Clifford, where he discovered food with an even more modern style. In 2005 Tom returned to The Capital for six months, before deciding that it was time to head for Paris and brush up on his patisserie skills. He spent one year at pastry chef Laurent Duchêne’s pastry shop of the same name. He says this was a difficult time as the “english man” in the kitchen was given all the  menial tasks every day. I did not mind that he said, as long as they taught me one new skill each day. I just absorbed every thing and learnt skill and knowledge that I still employ today.

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In 2006, he moved to New Zealand to head up the pastry section for the opening of the 5* Westin Hotel in Auckland. When he arrive half way across the world it was just a building site. So he was totally involved in the development of the kitchen from the ground up. He then made the short hop to Sydney, Australia, where he worked as sous chef at the renowned seafood destination Pier Restaurant (recognised as one of the San Pellegrino Best 100 Restaurants in the World in 2009). After two and a half years there, he came back to England in 2010 to be Head Chef at Restaurant Tom Aikens.

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Tom Cook joined Skylon as Head Chef in August 2015 after spending 4 years at the helm at Le Pont de la Tour.

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The restaurant a Skylon is an amazing space with its own unique atmosphere and I’m delighted to be here. I’m planning to further develop the menu and introducing some of the food styles I have come across in the last few years. Including flavour from Asia that feature from my time in both Australia and New Zealand, as well as introducing a distinctive style in pastry working with the great team we have here at Skylon.

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So here the final part of the Chef’s Table, can you tell us about a couple of places that Chef Tom likes to visit, when he gets a chance.

I’ve been lucky enough whilst in Australia to visit some great restaurants but my favourite is Quay right in Sydney harbour. It’s position gives amazing views across the harbour, the opera house and the harbour bridge. The restaurant has won lots of awards and customers rave about Chef Peter Gilmore’s food.

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Here in the UK I love The Square and Phil Howard’s cooking everything is consistently good and service is incredible. I try and get there as often as i can, especially when it’s as a treat or special event.

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An interview with Chef Daniel McGarey

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Favourite Tables would like to introduce you to a Solicitor from Wiltshire, or we would be if Chef Daniel McGarey’s parents had pushed home the academic route they planned. But Daniel seems to have weathered that and the period as a pot washer in a local restaurant to pursue a path as a chef. The turning points and the start of his culinary career, a coq au vin he was given the chance to cook by one of the chefs in that first kitchen. Up until that point he had had little experience as his mother was cooking all his meals in exchange for good grades.

He remembers conversations at home turning a little frosty when he decided to sign up for a specialist chefs training course at Bournemouth and Poole College, where he was awarded a Diploma with Merit.

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After graduation Daniel continued working at his placement restaurant at One Aldwych where at the end of his third year he was joined by Tony Fleming (now at Angler in Moorgate) who had a profound influence on his career by getting him to push himself and work outside his comfort zone to obtain success.

His culinary career to date has seen Daniel hold positions with Marcus Wareing, at The Dorchester, within the Hotel du Vin group and as Executive Sous Chef at the Michelin Starred Galvin at Windows

Daniel, now Head Chef at Plateau in Canary Wharf has created quite a reputation for delivering flavour within his dishes and using every part of the key ingredients sourced as local as possible and where ever practical from suppliers who use sustainable methods.

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So chef, whats your favourite type of food? My fiancee’s beef pie, came the quick response. So we opened the question, what types of food do you like to cook with and how do you achieve the best flavour from ingredients? I’m a big champion of British Lamb, and Mutton, Mutton does not always get a good press but it has some amazing flavours. When we get deliveries of Lamb I am very kind that the chefs in the kitchen know how to prep the meat and how to get the best use of every part. These are chefs skills that are being lost, butchery and identifying cuts of meat, as well as which part of a vegetable or fruit give the best flavours. We have all the toys in the kitchen but the one that I would say is used the most is the juicer.

What plans do you have for Plateau? I want to make Plateau the best restaurant in this part of London. My predecessor also came from Galvin’s so had learnt classic French cooking, I want to continue that development to deliver the highest standards and use my skills, my knowledge to create something fresh and new to delight our customers.

Now the question we ask all the chefs we speak to, where are your favourite tables, places you love to eat at.

The two I would love to eat at are Per Se and the French Laundry I really admire Thomas Keller and would love to eat his food.

We were really looking for places you have already been to and go back to. Could you share a couple?

I do visit the Sportsman in whitstable: Vegetables are grown in the garden or come from a nearby farm, the pork is from the farm very close by, lamb from the farm next to that and even the salt used comes from the beach just outside. Stephen Harris the chef tries to insure that fish are caught locally as well.

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But a firm favourite is Angler and Tony Fleming’s dishes. The food, the service and the location all work together to deliver a great experience.

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BBC MasterChef Winner Jamie Scott – revisited

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It’s been several months since favourite tables spoke to the then newly crowned BBC MasterChef 2014 winner Jamie Scott. That title will soon be passed to the winner of the new series currently being broadcast.

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Then

Now

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Our conversation back in the spring focused on his then position as Head Chef at a St. Andrews restaurant right by the world famous golf course:

2015 seems to have been a very busy year…

So Jamie what’s this we hear about “The Newport”

I am so excited to be able to tell you guys about my own restaurant which is well under way with kitchen refits and design work coming together nicely. My wife Kelly will be alongside me as we build our vision and we use the word vision because  “vision” is going to be a feature of the restaurant. Its laid out on two floors and both have large glass walls giving fantastic views across the River Tay to the Dundee coastline.

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Both floors will also have large outside areas with glass walls surrounding. So the atmosphere in the warmer evenings and weekend will be very relaxed as people dine or enjoy drinks and watch the river flow by.

I’m currently spending a lot of time working on the menu..my menu, that sounds good. All the work should be finished just before Christmas and we can start putting the finishing touches to both the restaurant look and feel and the menu, so that we will be opening before the end of January.

As well as all the time and effort he is putting in at The Newport, Jamie also told us he is running a series of pop-up dining experiences, all sold out in minutes, in Montrose, Dundee and Edinburgh which are also part of the menu development process. When we asked about what the menu could look like, he preferred to wait and surprise people.

I will inevitably look back on my experience to date, like my time at “Rocca, where I was Head Chef. Overlooking the 18th green at St. Andrews golf course we often had golfers in the restaurant after  they had finished a great round of golf. I’m sure they don’t try for a hole in one every game but if it happens, if it all comes together in that one special moment, well that’s how I felt. MasterChef was like getting a hole in one and my perfect round coming together.”

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Are you a golfer? “I grew up near Glasgow and had the opportunity to play golf at many of the courses locally. Golf also featured in my early ventures into cooking. My family business was involved in providing catering to a few of the golf courses. This meant I was spending a lot of time in and around golf and golf courses.”

Are you any good?” I used to be… I had some trials for the county and could have possibly played for Scotland,” was the modest response.

When the family moved to Arbroath to take over the running of a pub, Jamie’s passion for the kitchen took hold, helping his mother everyday or evening whilst attending catering college. The reputation of the family pub quickly grew as he introduced his skills and styles of cooking on to the menu. A chance meeting with the owner of a local restaurant saw him joining The Byzantium restaurant shortly after leaving catering college.

In 2011, just six years after first helping in the family catering business, Jamie joined Rocca working under the then Head Chef Scott Davies, as junior Sous Chef. 2013 saw a lot of changes at Rocca and in Jamie’s culinary career. When the BBC came to the area looking for Chefs to take part in the upcoming MasterChef the Professionals, both Head Chef Scott and Jamie were asked to apply. Jamie’s application forms missed the entry deadline for 2013 by just one day!

Later that year a new Head Chef, David Aspin joined the kitchen at Rocca and Jamie became Senior Sous Chef. A year later and Jamie was offered the Head Chef position. Then in 2014, already a busy year for him, got a whole lot busier when the Masterchef team recontacted him to ask if he would like to be included in the 2014 series.

Jamie got his career “Hole in One” and was crowned 2014 Masterchef the Professionals winner.

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His love of asian flavours and cooking styles came across during the Masterchef programmes, so when we asked him “where do you like to eat out” his first selection was no surprise.

My wife and I both love a little place in Glasgow called The Hanoi Bike Shop.  Everything feels authentically Vietnamese and the food is perfectly presented and packed full of flavour. My favourite dish is a slow cooked pork belly in a red curry Vietnamese style.

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If i’m allowed a second Favourite Tables suggestion then that would be Cail Bruich again in Glasgow.  I love that they change the menus here according to the seasons. There is a market and à la carte menu, and they have two tasting menu of five or seven courses.

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Favourite Tables predicts a very busy year ahead for Head Chef Jamie Scott and in particular around July when the Open Golf Championship rolls in to town. Will he get a chance to play a round of golf that fortnight who knows.

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This Place and This Chef are “Mint”

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Originally from Harrogate in North Yorkshire, Chef Paul Sowden was not initially destined for a culinary career. Having, in his words, done well at school, Paul was set to join the RAF as an officer trainee. But whilst on the induction programme it was discovered at the last minute that he would not be fit to fly aircraft. Other military careers were offered but Paul left bitterly disappointed he would not see the world from the seat of a fighter jet.

Pot Washer – That was a role taken for necessity and Paul found himself working in a local Leeds hotel where one weekend due to kitchen staff not turning up he was press-ganged on to the hot section and loved it. Becoming a regular in the kitchen he progressed quickly taking on more responsibility. A chance meeting with an other chef and advice of “stop working with frozen ingredients” and “use the best and freshest that local can provide”, saw him move to an up and coming central Leeds restaurant Sous le Nez where his skills developed quickly, becoming the senior person in the kitchen. The chef that gave the advice of not using frozen was Simon Gueller of Rascasse and he persuaded Paul to join the kitchen team ( briefly working alongside Daniel Clifford, what ever happened to him??)

Next few years saw Paul returning to Sous le Nez, work for the Tomahawk Hotel Group and take on the challenging but rewarding role at a Hotel/restaurant near Nottingham. A chance meeting with the new owner saw Paul heading up the team and starting from scratch developing the restaurant concept, menus and securing supplier agreements – that Hotel was the Clumber Park Hotel

Moving to London in 2010 Paul had the fortune to meet with the team behind the Mint Group, a successful entertainment group in London and, for a initial period of three years, he worked on a “development kitchen” basis changing the menus across three restaurants. The company operates Koko in Camden, Mary Janes in EC London and Bison and Bird in Clapham.

Around 18 months ago, Paul and the management team at the Mint Group embarked on a project to create a new restaurant, bringing together the vibrancy of Miami South Beach, the food cultures of Latin America and the precise exactness of Japanese food preparation and presentation. Mommi on Clapham High Road is the first of this restaurant style to be opened by the Mint Group with a few other cities earmarked for future openings.

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Mommi has received some great comments from diners who talk about the relaxed fun atmosphere, DJ music and fabulous cocktails hitting the right notes with locals and those that travel just to see what this unique combination is about.

Favourite Tables acknowledged that as Executive Chef at Mommi he has probably had very little spare time on his hands over the past year so any restaurant he said were his favourite tables would obviously be something special… so Chef where have you visited again recently?

Restaurant Pakta in Barcelona, Spain.  This is one of the first restaurants in which I experienced Nikkei cuisine. It has become a firm favourite for my wife and I

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I also have a “Favourite Tables” place which serves simple dishes packed with flavour. They are not great on the whole Twitter and Facebook thing. I’m not sure they even have a website but The Stockpot in London’s Soho, has been a secret pleasure of mine for a long time.

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18 Old Compton St, London W1D 4TN
020 7287 1066

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Silo

Douglas McMaster on Pirate Ships, Jam Jars and Zero Waste

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Douglas McMaster spent 6 years cooking in some of U.K’s best restaurants including St John bread and wine. In 2009 he won the BBC Young Chef of the Year and in 2012 he took the title of Britain‘s Most Irreverent Young Chef at the YBF’s (Young British Foodies) in London. When we spoke to Douglas we asked if he remembered meeting us back in 2009. He struggled for a minute until we reminded him he was one of our guests, along with DJ Calvin Harris, at an event in a £5M house in Belgravia  “oh yer that was a brilliant night”

His appetite to learn the latest culinary skills lead to him working his way around the best restaurants in the world gaining knowledge and experience that has developed his unique cooking style.

In 2012, whilst in Australia, Douglas opened Silo by Joost in Melbourne and now has opened his own U.K based Silo in Brighton.

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This innovative zero waste restaurant is receiving glowing customer reviews and outstanding media coverage. Some comments are about the refurbished furniture, drinks in old jam jars and plastic plates made from old carrier bags.

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But most are in praise of the stunning food:

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We asked if he has one particular restaurant that helped define the way he cooks?

Whilst this wasn’t the first, the kitchen at St John Bread and Wine was the most important kitchen that I trained in. St John cuts away all the irrelevant crap and only focuses on cooking quality ingredients with a carefully considered technique. It changed what cooking was in my eyes and still defines every plate of food I serve.

Can you tell us more about Dougie McMaster “the naked chef”?

Once upon a time, I was working in a kitchen with a gallery style window that customers looked at the kitchen like a fish tank. It was a 2 michelin star kitchen and it was a busy Saturday. To raise money for charity we were sponsored to work with just our aprons and chefs hats, during service.  There was 10 of us in the kitchen and it got a bit heated, needless to say there were a few laughs…

What innovative ideas can diners at Silo expect to find on their plates currently?

I still find  the versatility of onions fascinating and I’m currently dabbling in dehydrated onion powder as a seasoning. Freshly milled wheat is a world unto its own, in the same way wine and coffee are such a vast subjects, the world of milling shouldn’t be underestimated. As for techniques I’m ever so curious about the liquor created from hydrating de-hydrated food. For example we are dehydrating parsnips then re-hydrating them in apple juice creating a liquid that’s truly delicious and unique. We have also had some great results using local pears including making a pear cider.

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What do you have planned for Silo and the zero waste eco-system?

I’d love to have different Silo ‘satellites’ across Brighton; a Silo urban cheese room that creates all its cheese from milk that would have otherwise been wasted – coffee houses accumulate vast amounts of waste milk, a  bean to bar chocolate shop that has cacao pods delivered by a carbon zero transport (Pirate ship), a wine bar that has no wine bottles – all straight from the barrel, a coffee roastery that is powered by bio-fuel created from coffee waste…  all done with zero waste. I have this idea of a small scale city food system that can demonstrate how a cleverly conceived set of businesses could generate a whole food system that supports the surrounding eco-systems while nourishing the masses.

Finally, where are your Favourite Tables?

There are certain places that have influenced me, including eating at St John,  Noma & Mugaritz restaurants. They exemplify important ideas with meticulous craft and attention. Their contemporary approach allowed my mind to open, question the status quo and express my thoughts through the medium of food. If i had to pick one particular eating ‘moment’ i’d have to say the first time I ate the ‘blood cake & duck egg’ at St john bread and wine. Creating something so delicious from something so taboo…genius.

And what about now, when you get the chance to take your apron off (not a reference to the “naked chef”) where do you like to eat.

If I’m in London and get the chance I will go to St John Bread and Wine renowned for its nose to tail principles and I just love the atmosphere here. The buzz of this place is just great.

Locally in Brighton I like 64 Degrees not exactly a Chef’s Tables set up but I love that diners can get near the pass and look into the kitchen as the chefs prepare the meals. The “sharing” nature of the meals gives the place a brilliant vibe.

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Robert Reid of Balthazar London

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Robert Reid is the Head Chef of Balthazar London.

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Robert was brought up in South Africa, where he excelled at a catering college. Representing his country, he won the Junior Chef of the Year award at the annual Global Junior Chef of the Year competition held in the South of France.

It was here that Robert met Roger Vergé, who offered him a job at his exclusive three starred Michelin restaurant, Moulin de Mougins, after having spent just a week in his kitchen.

After two happy years in the South of France, Robert moved to The Crocodile in Strasbourg, another three starred Michelin establishment, subsequently returning to Paris for a spell at Joël Robuchon’s Jamin.

It was during Robert’s time at Jamin that he met Gordon Ramsay, who introduced him to Marco Pierre White. After five years in France, Robert ventured to London to join Marco’s three starred Michelin team at The Oak Room, where he stayed for almost a decade.

Balthazar exterior by Steven Joyce Hi Res - CopyBalthazar - bar 2 - credit David Loftus Balthazar - bar 4 - credit David LoftusBalthazar - Le Panier 2 by Sim Canetty-Clarke

Leaving the formality of Michelin starred restaurants, Robert then took up a position as Head Chef at Home House, an exclusive Private Members’ Club in London’s West End, until he met with Keith McNally and started on the journey that was to become Balthazar London. Robert’s softly spoken, mild mannered and open-minded character fits well with Balthazar owner, Keith McNally’s ethos. In his spare time, he enjoys shooting, fishing and spending time with his wife and two children.

Balthazar - Chicken liver & foie gras mousse - credit David Loftus Balthazar - Hazelnut waffles with warm berries, creme fraiche and Canadian maple syrup 1 by Sim Canetty-Clarke Balthazar - Spaghetti with lobster, roasted tomatoes and basil 2 - to be credited to Sim Canetty-Clarke Balthazar - Sweetcorn fritters with maple cured bacon and grilled tomato 2 by Sim Canetty-Clarke

Favourite Tables asked Robert for a place he like to visit.. He came prepared with three favourites

It’s difficult to pick just one! – I travel to and from work on my bike which means I get to explore the streets of London and discover new restaurants, it’s a real treat. The most important thing – other than the food of course – is that I can enjoy my meal with family or friends in a fun and relaxed environment.

The River Café has to be one of my firm favourites. They use only the finest, freshest produce, and their dishes are well executed without being overly complicated. Plus the service is impeccable.

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Address:        Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London W6 9HA

‘Phone:         020 7386 4200

 

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Pitt Cue Co. in Soho consistently draws a gigantic crowd with queues that snake around the block, but let me tell you, it is well worth the wait. Their Caramel Ribs with creamy Bone Marrow Mash is hearty and incredibly moreish – it goes down a treat during the cold winter months.

Address:  1 Newburgh Street, Soho, London W1F 7RB Phone:   020 7287 5578

I also have to mention La Trompette in Chiswick. Head Chef Rob Western is fantastic, not to mention a great friend. I admire his passion and attention to detail, and whenever I visit I always leave wanting more.

Dining_room1 Octopus pork

Address:        5-7 Devonshire Rd, Chiswick, London W4 2EU

‘Phone:         020 8747 1836

 

 

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