CHEF GARETH DAW
Pop-up Name | By Order of the Peaky Blinders- Chef Gareth Daw
Tell us something about the background to this. How long has the business been running?
Well, I’ve been doing tasting menu events since the start of this year, based out of Henry Webb’s in St Mellons, but December at Mr Brightsides in Cardiff will be my first one as an independent chef.
It’s an arresting (sorry) title…
I like to do things based around pop culture (like the Game of Thrones or The Greatest Showman events I previously did). I got into Peaky Blinders over the summer and thought that there was scope to create a menu around some of the characters/ places/ themes of the show. I think it brings a different aspect to the dining experience, and it’s not something that anyone else is doing really. Given this week’s news, I wish I’d known Boris was going to schedule an election for the same day, I would have done a politically themed menu!
You could always serve Chicken Farage. It’s like Chicken Karage, but it doesn’t leave a nasty taste in the mouth, or repeat on your family for generations… you’re right, we’ll leave the menu to you!
What was your first experience of cooking?
I never really cooked at home or learned how to cook growing up so I don’t have any notable experiences to recall there. My first memory of cooking in a professional kitchen- after only being a kitchen porter [KP] for a few weeks- was pan-frying some chorizo….which I burnt.
So who inspired you to take that next step, to make this your career?
Well, I had a really good head chef called Billy Mesquita who took me under his wing very early in my career. He showed me the ropes, and while he didn’t have a huge impact on the style of food I love to cook now, he taught me the basics- and more importantly, he taught me how to run a kitchen.
It sounds as if you’ve learned ‘on the job’, rather than formally..?
I’ve never had any formal chef training. Everything I know is either self taught, from tips I’ve picked up from other chefs I’ve worked with, or ideas gained from recipe books. As I progressed through the ranks very quickly (probably a bit too quickly in hindsight), I had to teach myself a lot of things rather than rely on formal teaching and training from others.
So what was your first job within the industry?
A KP at The Pear Tree in Cardiff. It was only meant to be temporary, for a couple of months at most!
Is your cooking influenced by any particular region or style?
These days I wouldn’t say it’s influenced by any particular region, as I generally have food from multiple cuisines running at the same time (British, Italian, French, Asian, Nordic.) When it comes to style, I like what I’m plating to have a very strong aesthetic appeal and I like having big, strong flavours. So you probably wouldn’t describe my cooking as ‘subtle’!
The Find My Dine three word challenge: if customers had to describe their dining experience with you in only three words, what would they be?
Let’s go for… “Fun. Interesting. Filling.”
When you come home from work, what do you like to cook?
F*ck all! I don’t enjoy cooking at home if I’m being honest. My girlfriend is a real foodie so I like being able to treat her to a nice home-cooked meal (especially pork belly, she loves it!) now and again but I generally don’t cook at home very often.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
I’m really bad for Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars. They don’t last long in my house. I also work out regularly so I love a good pre-workout drink!
Do you have a favourite ingredient to work with, something that always crops up on your menus?
That’s a tough one…let’s say my favourite herb would be thyme, my favourite spice would be cumin and I’d pick garlic as my favourite vegetable. My favourite protein would be beef. I’m sorry if that sounds very vague, but I love working with everything really!
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I’m very proud of the tasting menu events I put out earlier in the year, but I think my proudest moment up until now is getting my first head chef position.
What is the greatest compliment you have ever had about your food?
I had a guy say to me “I’ve eaten in Michelin-starred restaurants that haven’t been as good as that. Why are you working here?”
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I like the rush of a busy service, I like the camaraderie that develops between kitchen teams, I like it when all the guests are happy. But mostly I like the freedom to be creative and put my own personal stamp on a menu and venue. Without that freedom the job becomes infinitely less enjoyable!
Lastly, what advice would you give to any young person keen to start in the industry?
Hard work beats talent every time. You can be the most naturally talented chef in the world, but if you don’t put in the hard work you won’t last in this industry.
Chef Gareth Daw will be popping up at Mr Brightsides on December the 12th – tickets are £30 each and available via the venue directly on 029 20567373.