Wiltons first opened its doors in Mayfair 1742, offering a menu focused on fresh British produce. Whilst the restaurant remains true to its origins, Head Chef Daniel Kent is set on progressing tradition with a new focus on sustainability. Here, we speak to the chef about his mission to reduce plastic waste, finding ways to innovate and cooking at home
1. Did you always dream of becoming a chef and how did your career evolve?
Growing up I had many dreams of what I thought I wanted to do later in life but none of them involved being a chef! It all occurred almost by accident and serendipity took its course. When I left school, I took a job as a pot washer in a local restaurant to earn some pocket money. It was here that the chef asked me if I was interested in being part of the kitchen crew as he thought I might be good at it.
Curious of what this would involve I took him up on his offer and found that I really enjoyed working with food. My parents encouraged me to go to university and study hospitality, so I applied to Manchester University and completed the degree in Hospitality Management.
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Although I had enjoyed working with food so much university was guiding me to an operational role, however the creative aspect of working with food kept calling me and I continued working in kitchens.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to work with several very talented head chefs, all of which have taught me something new and gave me a different perspective. I have used their wise words and knowledge to develop my own management style which I comfortable and happy with.
Some of my mentors have included Rowley Leigh at Kensington Place, Chris Galvin, Jeremy King and Chris Corbin at The Wolseley. Their collective positive influence has assisted me in developing the skills required to run a kitchen in the way that I’ve always desired.
Over the years I have developed a team around me that allows me to coach and mentor new chefs coming into the industry and pass on all the skills I’ve learnt rising up through the ranks. At Wiltons I am exceptionally fortunate to have the incredible opportunity to use the finest, seasonal produce from all over Britain.
2. What defines your cooking style?
My true passion is using the very best British products to create dishes that reflect and do justice to their provenance. I would say that I like to develop dishes with modern European cooking techniques, which I can use to great effect with the dishes on our weekly set menus.
While the majority of Wiltons menu does not change, something our guests appreciate and expect we also like to introduce various specials on a daily basis which keep the brigade on their toes and creative. Wiltons is a great British classic and the food we serve needs to reflect this, but by implementing contemporary twists, keeps it relevant.
3. Which is your favourite dish on the Wilton’s menu and why?
Skrei cod, morels and fish veloute is on the menu at the moment and it’s delicious. This cod comes in season at the end of January and we’ve just introduced a wonderful fish dashi consommé. The main course dish we use a fillet of Skrei cod, finished with a classic bonne femme sauce and serve it alongside baby leeks and morel mushrooms. It’s a classic but we’ve collectively adapted it with ideas and techniques we’ve learnt from our travels and working in other restaurants and the guests are thoroughly enjoying it!
4. How are you tackling sustainability issues in the kitchen?
This is a gradual process. Wiltons was the very first restaurant in the UK to join the ‘Chefs Against Plastic Waste Campaign’. All of our chefs’ jackets are made from recycled plastic bottles that have been pulled from the shores of the British Isles. I requested that suppliers use reusable crates to deliver produce and this has been adhered to and we are very mindful of food waste. Bit by bit, we can all do our part. Sustainable practices are key, and we are addressing these.
5. What are your everyday essential ingredients?
Without a doubt, salt and butter! They can change a sauce, elevate a dish and are so basic, yet very versatile!
6. What’s your go to when you want to cook something quick and easy at home?
Chicken schnitzel and cucumber salad. It’s nutritious, quick and delicious and light too! I also enjoy preparing it.
Find out more: wiltons.co.uk