We visit Duck & Waffle and chat with Executive Chef Dan Doherty.
I remember the first time I heard about Duck & Waffle and how much I wanted to visit back in 2013. A year later I booked a table and decided to have breakfast on the first day of the year and tuck into their signature dish, the Duck & Waffle.
I was really hoping to indulge while looking at a clear peachy sky and be greeted with the sunrise, but the weather had other plans.
If you’ve been there a couple of times, you’ll know that going for dinner, lunch or even breakfast is sort of an event. From the elevator ride to the table, you are greeted and smiled to, you feel at home, 40 floors up the Heron Tower.
The relaxed atmosphere on the morning of the 1st of January was the best New Years celebration I could have ever asked for. No crowds, no screaming or drunk people.
The slow music, dimmed lights…it was just perfect. I had just arrived at 7 am and did not want to leave.
In the distance, Chef Tom Cenci was putting together orders, the kitchen looked beautifully quiet after the New Year’s Eve storm, figuratively speaking.
It is no news that I can tackle any cuisine at any time of day, and that’s why I had their signature dish. It was perhaps one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had. I’ve always loved duck but in this case, they took it to another level.
It’s Wednesday morning on the 18th of February and I’m on my way to Liverpool Street to meet with Chef Dan Doherty. Unlike many other chefs, Dan is very active on social media, which in my opinion is great, because it means we get a glimpse of the restaurant’s behind the scenes.
It’s probably one of the things he gets asked the most but I was interested to know why he decided to become a chef. He pointed out that like most chefs out there, he started out as a kitchen boy, washing dishes and prepping bits and bobs, then worked his way up. However, his older brother, who’s also a chef was a big influence too.
When I asked him what was his favourite type of cuisine, he promptly asked back: “to eat or to cook?”. Good point, actually. When it comes to cooking, he says it should be fun, otherwise what’s the point? but he also pointed out that being experimental all the time can actually make you want to go back to a more classical way of cooking. The sort of old school techniques you might learn at cooking school. In terms of eating, he has a strong bond with British classics, like stews and roasts, and he’s very fond of Japanese and Italian food too.
When I asked what he thought the food hype of 2015 would be he said the burger craze will probably phase out and even though it’s quite difficult to predict what the next big culinary thing will be, he’d like to see Korean and Taiwanese cuisines gain more popularity.
Dan was out in Seoul last month on a research trip. I asked him how much does the traveling influence the menu at Duck & Waffle and he commented on how research trips are usually a way to learn about other cultures and their food rather than going out to adapt dishes he may find. The idea is to understand why is that cuisine successful and change his own thought process when it comes to creating dishes back at the restaurant.
In terms of inspiration, it’s a both a collaborative process between chefs and what seasonal ingredients are available as they stimulate change.
When Dan was 16, he was amongst the 28 selected for the Academy of Culinary Arts Scholarship out of a total of 2,000 applicants. This gave him the opportunity to take part in an apprenticeship at Michelin star rated 1 Lombard Street in London, from which he graduated in 2005 as Chef de Partie.
When I ask him what advise he would give to anyone looking to pursue a career as a chef he quickly says “to not be scared”. What has been portrayed on TV is not necessarily how it is. The job IS hard, yes, but no one should be scared of it. In terms of what makes a good chef, he says “Commitment, Passion and loving everything you do. Work hard and be loyal.”
What really stroke me about Dan is how down to earth he is, I ask him about his plans for the future and he says he’ll be working on his side-project Chefs of Tomorrow, “a series of dinners that showcase some of the rising young talent in the British culinary world today. Each event is curated by Dan, with the aim to create fun, intimate dinners in an environment that allows young chefs to grow and develop. The dinners consist of four courses, with a chef responsible for each course.” Find out about the project and how you can get involved here.
All Images courtesy of Duck&Waffle.