Chefs helping chefs

In London to discover Dan Doherty's latest project: promote and cook with emerging talents

12-06-2015

A few months Dan Doherty, executive chef at London's Duck and Waffle (second from left), successfully launched a project called Chefs of Tomorrow: young and up and coming chefs are invited to cook a meal under his supervision (photo: Ming Tang-Evans)

Talent. Opportunity. Future. These three keywords appear as a tagline on the website dedicated to Chefs of Tomorrow, a project launched a few months ago by the tireless executive chef of the Duck and Waffle Dan Doherty. Three are also the main elements of the programme: the restaurants offering themselves us as venues, the chefs and the paying public. The concepts seems valid: up and coming cooks are invited to prepare a meal under Dan’s watchful eyes; while his name alone is enough to fill the dining room with foodies and followers, this allows complete (or almost) unknown to show off their capabilities and finally receive the credit (or criticism) so valuable to those at the beginning of their career.

Dan is often busy with charitable causes, whether running the London Marathon fundraising for Nepal or donating a day in the kitchen with him to a charity auction. It seemed natural that sooner or later he would put his efforts to help out those who are in the same business as him. “I was lucky enough to have a great mentor in Herbert Berger. It wasn’t all roses, but I don’t regret it - it was essential.”

To see if the formula works, we join the most recent session of Chefs of Tomorrow, which happen to be at L’Escargot, smart location of the bygone Soho. The evening’s menu is pretty eclectic: from a creative starter which includes gull’s egg to a Thai inspired dish, followed by a more classic roast lamb and then an apple and caramel dessert. The result is an interesting four parts’ journey through different styles and inspirations, each dish well executed and delicious. After each course, the cook who prepared pops into the dining room to introduce (sometimes, shyly) his or her dish, receiving the well deserved compliments of the diners.

Lamb dish by Blo Deady served in one of the recent Chefs of Tomorrow's events (photo: Federica Carr)

Lamb dish by Blo Deady served in one of the recent Chefs of Tomorrow's events (photo: Federica Carr)

Dan appears only at the very beginning and the very end of the evening, to introduce the event and then to thank everyone; he prefers to leave the stage to the younger generation (not that he’s old himself at 31). If Dan is the name that attracts the crowds, it is important to remember that with him, at the helm of the project, is Anna Sulan Masing, Malaysian PR and producer based in London with years of experience in catering and events.

After the dinner, we meet Dan to find out more about the initiative, and we start by asking him if he came up with the idea in a particular moment. “Not really – he tells us - the idea/project has evolved naturally the more we have spoken about it, but the goal was always to do it the way we are doing it. It was after tweeting the general idea and seeing the reaction that made me realise it was the right thing to do.” How are participants picked, we wonder. “They email their interest, with a reference from their chef and suggestions for courses and dishes. We match people up depending on which is their preferred date. We don't have quite the wait list of chefs we wish we did, but hopefully that'll grow. We get them to get a reference from their chefs so they know what’s going on, can support their wish to participate.”

So what is next for the Chefs of Tomorrow? Dan smiles: “That’s the magic question! We are currently revising the structure and will hopefully have an even better second series.” And judging by Dan and Anna’s determination, we have no doubt about it.