Chef of the Week: Daniel Britten – Chef Proprietor at Britten for Food

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have been working at Britten For Food for 2 years since leaving my last kitchen, bringing a restaurant experience to private households.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for food came about in my mid teens, I was always interested in creating things in the kitchen from a young age but more out of boredom then anything else. I have spent a lot of time in the States where my stepmum started to introduce me to new flavours and ingredients.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I trained at Tante Marie Culinary academy in Woking when I was 30 years old as that is where I lived at the time. Before that I had an allotment where I grew my own veg and would cook from scratch most nights of the week.

I enjoy being able to create, to have the freedom to come up with new dishes and the look on peoples faces when they try something for the first time and enjoy it. Also teaching and training is something I really enjoy, seeing chefs develop into great team members gives me a lot of satisfaction.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Vanilla, butter & fresh thyme. Vanilla brings such a beautiful flavour and aroma to any dish it’s a staple in my kitchen. I finish most of my meats, fish and vegetables in butter, its probably my most important ingredient.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
A good frying pan is an important piece of kit, you can cook nearly everything for an exceptional meal in one pan.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Using more vegetables and creating vegan dishes seems to be on trend at the moment. I have changed the way I eat in the last 12 months so that I eat less meat but when I do I source some good quality local meat from my butcher.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
My favourite time of year is Autumn, from September to November being able to use nature’s larder for fantastic game and foraged food, wild mushrooms, berries, personally I love it.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
It’s important to be proud of all your dishes, learn, evolve and get better.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
When coming up with new dishes I sit down and go through what is bang in season at that point in the year, I make a list of fruit and vegetables then protein and put what I think goes together before trialling it in the kitchen.

How do you come up with new dishes?
About 10 years ago I went to Vancouver and met someone who worked for a restaurant called West, their menu was based on sourcing everything within 100 miles, this made me more aware of using what is around and when its at its best, this influenced my cooking and how I cook today.

Who was your greatest influence?
3 chefs I admire. My first head chef was a guy called Iain Richardson, we worked at a hotel in Ripley Surrey, I have always admired him for the way he kept his cool when I came into his kitchen looking for a position, I went a couple of weeks unpaid to show him what I am made of, after which he offered me a job. The way he spoke to suppliers and other staff was how is how I’ve tried to be for the last 10 years.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Steve Drake is someone I have admired since I first ate his food about 11 years ago. Then a few years ago I met him and we became friends, having someone of his calibre to talk food to was a huge deal to me, he influences the way I work today.

Another chef I admire is a friend of mine called Anthony Raffo, this guy really thinks outside of the box and always delvers an amazing plate of food, he is a clever guy and is always looking to what nature can provide in the kitchen, if I need any foraging advice he is the man I go too.

What is your favourite cookbook?
My favourite cook book is Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, I bought it when I was just getting into to cooking and I remember looking through its pages thinking that one day I would love to cook like but at the time I couldn’t even make out how to go about the recipes. I look at it now and take great inspiration from its pages.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Chefs to watch over the next few months are Joe Walker up at the Wernher restaurant at the Luton Hoo Hotel, a fantastic chef knocking out some bold and beautiful dishes, watch his space! Again Anthony Raffo, he’s a legend and also am I allowed to say me? Watch this space for a new project in the pipe line!

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
My favourite new restaurant opening of the last year, It’s a bit over a year now but the meal I had at Steve Drake’s Sorrel in Dorking was one I won’t forget, his cooking has evolved into something seriously special, different to what I ate all those years ago and will take some beating!