Chef of the Week: Daniel Lee, Head Chef at Galvin Green Man in Essex

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Three years at Galvin Green Man (six and a half years with the company including three years at Michelin-starred la Chappelle)

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for cooking came from the want to do something both practical and creative. I found cooking to be both of these and this was enhanced by the fantastic knowledge given by my college tutors who went above and beyond to make sure the course was covered in great depth. I learnt the foundations of my craft at Sheffield City College completing the professional chefs diploma NVQ level 3.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I think my favourite part of being a chef is getting to cook with fantastic fresh seasonal ingredients on a daily basis. This and the diversity of the kitchen.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Smoked Maldon sea salt, lemons, butter, thyme and garlic – 3 wasn’t enough and with these 5 ingredients you can make even the most bland of ingredients taste great.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
I don’t think it would be possible to live without a good blender and a fine chinois. This can be the difference between ok and exceptional.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
I think the biggest trend we’re seeing at the moment is a more simple approach to cooking and plating with a real focus on quality of ingredient and detail in flavour.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
A big mistake I see a lot of chefs make is over complicating dishes. Either it be to many ingredients or flavours or too fiddly in composition. I’m guilty of making these mistakes too along the road but now much prefer a simpler approach.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Late summer moving into autumn is a great time of year. A lot of garden vegetables are ready to harvest and also the introduction of game and orchard fruits are both welcome additions.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I think my proudest dish is one produced for competition rather than restaurant. It took me all the way to the final of The Roux Scholarship in 2015 and was judged by some incredible chefs and received outstanding feedback. The dish was as follows: poached and roasted guinea fowl, baby spring vegetables, spinach gnocchi, mushroom consommé.

How do you come up with new dishes?
The art of creating new dishes is a complex one. I personally take to books for inspiration, taking elements from dishes I like, but the driving force is the market and what is available and in season.

Who was your greatest influence?
My level 3 college lecturer Mick Burke has been the biggest influence as he showed me the importance of being driven from a young age and encouraged me to make the most of a career in hospitality as it can be highly rewarding.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Chris and Jeff Galvin both count as one for me. Being able to work closely with two great chefs has been invaluable to my development. Andrew McConnell (an Australian chef/restaurateur based in Melbourne), I had the privilege of spending six months in his two hat restaurant Cutler & Co. I really enjoyed this time spent under him. He had a great ethos which reflected in every single team member and his food was highly creative.  The late Andrew Bennett MBE, the first chef I worked for in London of whom I’ll always admire for his humble approach and his time and guidance given to many. A true gentlemen.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Favourite current cookbook is most probably ‘Rrestaurant Nathan Outlaw” but this can change weekly.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
I’m keeping a close eye on Ian Musgrave from The Ritz. He is this years Bocuse D’or candidate and hoping for a wildcard for the finals. I have my fingers and toes crossed for him.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Tricky question as not many have opened. I’m just grateful for those who have managed to continue trading through hard times.

Photo credits
Front of venue shot: Mathew Nutt Photography
Portrait: Paul Mathews Photography