Dan Fletcher, head chef, Fenchurch at Sky Garden

The  Staff Canteen

Dan Fletcher is the head chef at Fenchurch, located in London’s Sky Garden.

He took over last year when Zac Whittle left, but before this he was at The Square for five years under Phil Howard and worked with Michelin-starred chefs Tom Kitchin and Tommy Banks.

In his first head chef role he brought in senior sous chef Liam Fauchard-Newman from The Ledbury, and sous chef James Southern, also from The Square - to strengthen the team of 15 chefs.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Dan about the challenges of managing a brigade, how the menu has changed to reflect his own style and why Phil Howard is the most influential chef in his career.

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Maple Sesame Balsamic Glazed Duck

How did you end up as head chef at Fenchurch?

I was at The Square for five years and I was given the opportunity to be head chef there after Phil and Gary (Foulkes) left, after accepting the position I realised I wanted a change. I decided a new start was what I needed and I wanted to take on my own challenge, I took over the role of head chef at Fenchurch in January last year (2017).

How has the restaurant changed since you took over?

It is constantly evolving but I think that’s just me growing and developing as a cook. Fenchurch has always had an ethos of taking some of the best British ingredients and showcasing them in one of the most iconic buildings in London which I endeavour to continue. Where possible I try and use the nations most celebrated ingredients, at the moment for example, we are using Yorkshire rhubarb, hand dived scallops from Orkney and mackerel and mussels from Newland – however I don’t solely stick to British produce, I try to compliment them with all the amazing ingredients we are lucky enough to have available in London as well, we have access to all the fantastic European markets, flavours and ingredients, it would be criminal not to take advantage.

How easy is it to find your own niche when you’ve worked for such established chefs?

I don’t think it’s ever easy to go out on your own and do it for yourself but it’s certainly a challenge I’m enjoying and relishing. I love the development process, being inspired one day and seeing those ideas through to fruition the next, running the kitchen in the way I see fit and the overall responsibilities that comes along with it all.

Info bar

Rising stars – 5 other chefs / restaurants you consider stars of the future:

Class of 2015 at The Square

Ben Marks - Perilla

Peter Hall - Lorne Restaurant

Liam Fauchard-Newman - Fenchurch Restaurant

Eric Matthews - Chapter One, Dublin

Mark Cooke - Angler

Toby Burrowes - Elystan Street

Jack Allibone - Bayswater Kitchen, Singapore

‘Guilty pleasures’ – list food items / dishes / ingredients that aren’t considered ‘cheffy’ but you love to eat:

Anything created with chocolate always tastes delicious.

You can’t beat good quality tomatoes, simple but tasty.

Blue cheese – not everyone’s favourite but brings a distinctive taste to your dish and I love it!

Lasagne, a home-cooked classic but definitely one of my go-to dinners. 

Top 5 restaurants:

Som Saa, Shoreditch

Padella, Borough Market

Portland, Marylebone

Core by Clare Smyth, Notting Hill

Barrafina, Soho

Favourite cookbook:

I have just added Roots by Tommy Banks to my library and it’s a beautiful book, definitely worth a read!

What’s been your biggest learning curve so far?

All the way through your career you are taught how to cook, but you’re not shown how to manage people. So, I think that is always a learning curve and it’s something I’m still enjoying.

How important is your team, especially as you are a seven-day operation?

You have to have people you can rely on, who will support you and who will be there when you are not. All kitchens go through staffing peaks and troughs but it is all about picking the right people to join the team.

Now you are a head chef, do you remember why you wanted to cook in the first place?

I started as a pot wash at The Cleveland Tontine and I moved into the kitchen from there – I was very young, impressionable and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. The high energy in the kitchen is something you don’t always get in other careers and I really like that.

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cod at Fenchurch

You’ve worked with Tom Kitchin and Tommy Banks – what attracted you to their kitchens?

With Tom Kitchin it was his food and business ethos. The lengths he goes to, to source ingredients always committed to staying true to the restaurants philosophy which he brings to every plate of food sent out of the kitchen. It’s so inspiring and for me at the time it felt so new and fresh, it was really on point and I wanted to experience it.

He’s an incredible cook and he was so impressionable on my career. Like all amazing chefs he was quite hard to work for, very strong willed and always knew what he wanted – but he’s an amazing guy. At The Black Swan (at Oldstead) they have the growing aspect but again it’s all about trying to source the best ingredients. I was there when it was being developed and it was really interesting to help with the way that restaurant has gone, it’s been an amazing achievement.

You’ve cooked in a number of places including Australia, South Africa and South East Asia – is travel important for chefs and what did you learn from it?

It absolutely had an influence on my food style, there is so much food and culture out there in the world and any chance I get to experience it I want to go out there and take what I can from it.

Strawberry dessert

Why did you want to work in London?

When I was younger I said I would never go and cook in London, it didn’t interest me at all, but then the more I got in to my career I realised it’s the epicentre of British cuisine and it’s the most forward-thinking area for our industry.

I wanted to be a part of that and I joined the team at The Square. Phil Howard is a quality restaurateur and so experienced in the industry that nothing ever phased him.

He knew exactly what he wanted and at the heart of that was just delicious food. That was what was always drove home to me when I worked there that the food had to be delicious. Both Phil and Gary were massively influential on the way I see and perceive dishes, the way I run the kitchen and the produce I use.

You’ve talked about produce and the influences on your food, can you talk us through a few dishes on the menu at Fenchurch?

The latest addition is English asparagus with a cured and spiced pork belly - we’ve added a smoked egg yolk emulsion, mustard dressing and mustard leaves sticking to the ethos of having three prime ingredients, it’s simple but incredibly delicious. We’re also doing roast scallops dressed with pickled shallots and crème fraiche. Then underneath are the first peas and they are dressed in a dulse seaweed vinaigrette and capers. You get that salty, earthy flavour which is interesting with peas and the sweetness of the scallops.

What are your goals for yourself as a chef and the business?

My focus is solely on the restaurant, pushing it forward and continuing the development. I want to see where it goes and how far I can take it. I like to see improvement every day in something and eventually those small improvements will be reflected throughout the whole restaurant which is very satisfying.

More pictures from Fenchurch:

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Roast Orkney Scallops With Slow Cooked Pumpkin

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fenchurch low res

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd May 2018

Dan Fletcher, head chef, Fenchurch at Sky Garden