Daniel joined Wiltons in 2011, having previously worked at some of London’s finest restaurants such as Le Café Anglais, Skylon and The Wolseley. He initially went to university with the idea that he would become a Restaurant Manager. However, upon graduating, he fell in love with cooking, having been previously inspired by the many Sunday lunches at his aunt’s house where she would put on a feast of local Yorkshire produce and sherry-laced trifle! He has a firm belief that use of great ingredients and an exceptional team behind him is the perfect recipe for a world-class establishment. He has enjoyed re-introducing many of Wiltons classic dishes as well as showcasing many of his own creations.
Question: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”
Daniel: A cep risotto, it’s a classic but I absolutely love this dish.
Question: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?
Daniel: I loved History at school and I had a brilliant teacher who really got me interested in it and I think it made me want to be a History teacher. But then came the part-time job in the kitchen and I got the hospitality bug.
Question: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)
Daniel: Faviken in Sweden, the whole experience is so far away from what we do here it really appeals to me.
Question: What do you think about negative reviews?
Daniel: I hate them! We have let the guest down, but you have to look at them and understand where we let them down, was it the cooking, the ambience or not understanding why they were visiting our restaurant and in turn, how do we make them feel comfortable as our guests. We have to make the reviews a tool to understand how we can improve. We have a policy of not questioning the guest if they have made the wrong choice of wine or dish and we will go some way to replacing it if they let us know during the meal we are more than happy to correct it there and then.
Question: If you received a call from The White House to say the President was in town and wanted a British Dinner Menu at Wiltons what would you feature?
Daniel: We know now that President Trump is in love with American Food but I think we would have to bring him back to his ancestral roots with some amazing Scottish salmon and the amazing products we have in the United Kingdom, be that the beef we use to make the consommé or the oysters that are paired with it. I’m sure he has a sweet tooth as well so he won’t go wrong with our formidable Summer pudding…
River Yealm oysters with jellied beef consommé and horseradish
Steamed Wild salmon with asparagus and watercress
Summer pudding the best of British products.
Question: What is your favourite dish on the current Wiltons menu/s that you re-introduced from the long history of the restaurant?
Daniel: The Cropwell Bishop twice baked soufflé is the dish that I reintroduced as it was on the menu in the past as a Souffle Monico and it is a dish that has really found a following with our regulars. We even put it on our private dining room menu as people have asked for it several times… I think it’s the balance of the cheeses we use the texture of the soufflé that seems to have the guests wanting more and even asking for the recipe!
Question: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?
Daniel: I would love to cook with Thomas Keller as I think he has a level of perfection that is inspiring and I love his use of using producers who are driven in their fields. I would love to talk to him about how he has trained so many talented chefs through his kitchens and how he uses his “on the pass moments” that he posts on Instagram to inspire his team and of course how I can replicate the infamous oyster and caviar dish.
My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?
Restaurant (1): J Sheekey’s it’s a little dinner treat for me and the wife before the theatre and I love that it gets me brownie points for the intimate and romantic feel of it. @JSheekeyRest
Restaurant (2): Noble Rot, I just love Lamb Conduit Street and how this restaurant has found its place here, brilliant food and wine, the table just by the fireplace in Winter is brilliant. @noblerotbar
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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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