Chef of the Week: Daniel Kerr – Head Chef at Fistral Beach Hotel & Spa in Cornwall
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I joined Fistral Beach Hotel & Spa in September 2019.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I had a very foodie childhood where I was lucky enough to eat out a lot. I was instantly amazed how food could create such great memories. My grandma also is an amazing baker so my love of pastry started with her, although she wouldn’t agree with all the machines we use now, she believes its always best to use your hands and fingers.
I trained at Stratford -upon-Avon College whilst working in my home town of Kenilworth, I then trained in London and worked with Tom Aikens and Jason at Maze before working with Peach Pubs for 5 years, learning most of my style from a great chef there called Charlie Barr (formerly of Simpsons, Birmingham).
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I simply just love to cook, my favourite section is on the pans on sauce, if i could just run that section for the rest of my life that would be the best. I enjoy the attention to detail and constant strive for perfection, it’s such an infectious environment.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter and salt, but I guess that’s a given.
I love pork (we use Primrose Herd who are great), it’s such a versatile ingredient I rarely complete a menu without it.
Cheese is another huge favourite of mine, love big strong French cheese, Per Las from wales is epic, Godminster cheddar makes the best cauli cheese.
Mackerel is so massively underused, and still never sells as well as I think it should, but love that too, it pairs with so many strong flavours.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
It has to be a Vita Prep, so so powerful, literally couldn’t live without it.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Local and seasonal has no gone to the next level, which is great!! Guests will now seek out that information, and almost be disappointed if there is no care of it. Hopefully, this continues as I would love to see the food miles for every continue to shrink and more support from those local farmers really pushing that plough to plate moto.
Plant based food really isn’t going away, so chefs simply have to embrace it. I personally love vegetarian food and have never shied away from it, vegan not so much I mean cheese and butter!
I keep seeing Seacuterie more and more, I’m looking forward to trying some more soon, monkfish loin bacon etc.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Over complicating, the older I get, the more I understand it… source the best ingredients, cook it in a way that brings out the most flavour and put it on a plate. If you can get the confidence to do that, you will do ok.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
It has to be summer, it’s the only time of year we get all the lovely fruit to choose from, the fish markets are full. Just the best!! One of my first grown up food memories was sitting on a terrace in the south of France, eating a beautiful lemon sole with vermouth and tomato salsa butter thing over the top and a crisp picpul de pinet … perfection
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I love the pork belly starter (photo) that was on our menu for two seasons, just changed the garnish… the belly is cured for a day, then bathed at 68 degrees for 48 hours, then pressed for a day, then seared to crisp up… served with tart apple and smooth squash puree in the winter… simply perfect umami.
How do you come up with new dishes?
New dishes are inspired by the seasons, so I compile list of veg, fruit, nuts, fish, meat, foraged that’s in season for the couple of months, then I start match flavour that I know, thinking about texture, acidity, salt, sweet etc… then cook, tweak, repeat!
Who was your greatest influence?
Charlie Barr was huge influence, her love and respect for food along with the way she ran a kitchen. Everyone worked so hard for her because they wanted to do her proud, I would like to think our kitchen now is that same.
Tell us three chefs you admire
Daniel Humm , Grant Achatz and Daniel Clifford.
What is your favourite cookbook?
Daniel Humm books are both amazing, but the first one blew my mind… I had never thought of food that way until I read that book.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Tom Brown at Cornerstone is cooking amazing stuff, food you really want to eat, Guy Owen at Karrek and us at Fistral obviously!
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Core by Clare Smyth is simply amazing!! I have not been to Daniel Humm’s restaurant in London yet, but I will.