What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Keep things simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves. That was actually advice from Bjorn (van der Horst) when I was maybe 20 years old and it has always stuck with me. After that I still went and did a lot of crazy things, using chemicals and everything – I was a young chef and excited by that – but my food is really all about simplicity and sourcing great ingredients. It’s advice I give to chefs I train too – I like them to create specials but they always try and go that extra mile and put 10 things on a plate when a lot of the time you don’t need that, you just need to appreciate the ingredients for what they are.
Do you have a role model?
I don’t because I’ve worked in all kinds of different realms and when I finished learning everything I could in one I would always choose to do something completely different. I’d say I probably learned the most from Nuno Mendes when I spent three amazing years with him, but I’ve picked up a lot of different techniques from everywhere. I wouldn’t say he’s a role model, but I really respect him and his food.
What ingredient can you not live without?
Dashi [Japanese soup stock], I use it to season. I spent a bit of time in Japan and I found that I’d leave the meal feeling so much lighter. It’s quite a European thing to season with salt and it can be quite aggressive, it always makes me leave a meal feeling like I need to drink lots of water, but in Japan I never felt that once because they use dashi. I use seaweed or shiro [fish] dashi and I think it brings a really rounded flavour, and brings out the flavours in the other ingredients. It’s my number-one go-to at the moment.
What do you always take with you when you travel?
I don’t take anything. I don’t even do any research before I travel. I like to meet the locals when I go somewhere and get inspiration that way and I like to get out and explore the city and smaller towns. I think when you research too much your expectations are always a little bit higher and walking into the unknown is so much more enticing, right? So I guess what I always take with me is an empty suitcase to bring back the products and ingredients, wines and spirits you’d never normally find in the UK that I can have a play with when I get home.
Do you have a favourite spirit that you’ve discovered when travelling?
I think mescal is the one that took me back the most, and sake. Before I went to Mexico I thought mescal was super smoky, just an overkill of smoke, and I found out when I was there that in fact most of the exported mescals are the cheapest and quickest ones to make, which means they take on a lot more smoke. In Mexico, most of the mescals aren’t even smoky, they feel like really good tequila that has a hint of smoke. Similarly, the sake in Japan really tastes amazing, with hints of pineapple and passion fruit; it was probably my favourite drink when I was there. I brought 13 bottles back, but they didn’t last too long.
Where are your favourite places to eat in London?
I have a two-year-old son so I don’t get to eat out a lot. When I do I go for places I know and can take a few mates to and share some dishes. I really like My Old Place, the Chinese restaurant near Liverpool Street, it’s great. I just love big flavours. The lamb skewers are so good and only £1 each.
What do you do on a day off?
I spend time with my son – we walk around and go to the park, just normal stuff really.
What are your biggest passions outside of cooking?
Football, I’m a hardcore Liverpool fan.
If you could invite anyone dead or alive to a dinner party, who would it be?
I don’t know anything about celebrities or famous people. But maybe the Liverpool team, they’re my celebrities! Or my son when he’s my age, I can’t wait for him to start trying my food.
The Standard London, 10 Argyle Street, WC1H 8EG; standardhotels.com