Chef of The Week: Daniel Pearse, Executive Pastry Chef UK, Hakkasan Group
How long have you worked at Hakkasan Group UK?
Six and a half years.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I’ve been interested in food for as long as I can remember. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to cook and create. However, the eight-year-old boy pestering his parents to buy him a recipe book for Christmas could never have imagined that cooking would have taken him to where I am today.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Watching people’s reactions when they try my food and seeing how happy it makes them.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Flour, salt, chocolate.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
My Hobart mixers and my Thermomix.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Healthy living is very important and you can see this in the way that chefs are cooking these days. We are trying to accommodate what people want and need. For example, we’re now making products gluten-free, using less sugar and salt where possible. This is something within Hakkasan Group Pastry that we really push for, especially when it comes to using less sugar. We are always on the look out for alternative options that we can use in our products.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Chefs who try to run before they can walk. Give yourself time to learn your trade before trying to run up the ladder.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
It would have to be the summer because there is an abundance of fruit and vegetables available to you, and you’re almost spoilt for choice with great produce to work with.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
The Pear and Whiskey Toro dessert that I serve in one of our restaurants, Sake no Hana. It resembles a Japanese lantern and is filled with a ginger mousse, a pear compote and topped with a Japanese single malt whiskey cream. It uses great seasonal produce mixed with Japanese ingredients, and the fine balance between the two is a real success.
How do you come up with new dishes?
It’s very much a team effort in Hakkasan Group. I am a big believer in drawing ideas from everybody within my teams. We generally have an open discussion to talk about new flavours and ideas for the next menu. We then develop these ideas, working closely with the chefs to get the best results out of them. I am there to guide and help where I can, and ultimately I have the final say as to what goes onto our menus.
Who was your greatest influence?
The biggest influence in my career so far has been working with chef Graham Hornigold. He was my boss and mentor and has been for the past ten years. He saw potential in me many years ago whilst I was working for him at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, and he has given me great opportunities and helped me become the chef that I am today. I have been blessed to work alongside some great chefs over the years, and they have each taught me many valuable skills and lessons along the way. But even to this day I am still learning, and this for me is very important: you will never stop learning, and you must always strive to teach yourself something new and to teach others around you as well.
Tell us three chefs you admire
Frank Haasnoot, Thomas Keller, Jordi Roca.
What is your favourite cookbook?
Le Patisserie de Pierre Herme, it’s a classic.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Ed Dutton of Noize restaurant.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Claude Bosi at Bibendum.