I’m very interested in the idea of making direct connections in the cooking and dining experience.
Everything about the tasting menu meals that I cook centres on this idea of a direct connection with the guests. I serve just 8 people per night a 12 course tasting menu, cooking and serving all the food by myself.
Operating like this all the superfluous stuff involved in fine dining is stripped away. This removes a lot of complication and expense from hosting my events but also leaves the cooking & myself totally exposed with nothing to hide behind. Its great in that you have a unique level of control over quality but also complete responsibility, there is no excuse to let anything go wrong. The guests know everything served to them has been made by one person & there hasn’t been a commis chef picking herbs or waiter polishing plates.
Working like this started out as a necessity but quickly it became a unique part of the experience and a real strength of how I work. I can’t operate on the same scale as a larger Michelin starred restaurant but few places can offer an experience as personal as I can.
I think this direct connection to the chef is a really important part of the experience for my guests. It adds a sense and authenticity to the experience.
We’re all familiar with a focus of seasonally, foraging and deepening connections with farms and producers as a way to connect chefs and diners with the ingredients. I’m now interested in extending some of those sorts of ideas into other areas of the cooking and dining experience. I try to integrate myself further into the meal by making a number of my own pieces of tableware.
Nearly half the courses I serve involve some service pieces I have made myself. Again for me that’s a way of making the experience more unique, adding another way of connecting with the guests and a way to work on a different scale from a big expensive restaurant but to make that work to my advantage.
I also find using knives you have built yourself if a very empowering experience and you can’t help but feel connected with tools you have spent so much time working on. I think I use them more carefully and with more attention than my other knives. The same way putting on a chef jacket puts you in the head space to be in that role, I think using a knife you’ve made yourself puts you in a particular state of mind.
I’m hoping over the rest of this year to keep looking further at ways I can keep making the meals I cook feel more personal and unique as well as of course delicious.
I am delighted to be joining some amazing chefs at UCFF and can’t wait to see you all at Westlands.