10 Minutes with: Dan Doherty

The  Staff Canteen

Last year Dan Doherty, executive chef at Duck and Waffle, launched a new project to help young chefs showcase their talent.

The project, Chefs of Tomorrow, was a huge success with each event a sell out and off the back of this Dan and his team have launched a second series under the new name of The TMRW Project. The Staff Canteen spoke to Dan about why he is so passionate about giving young chefs a break, what the industry needs to do to keep chefs inspired and motivated and of course the second series of Chefs of Tomorrow!

Lewis Sully, main - lambs neck, lava bread, sea vegtables, gem hearts.

lambs neck, lava bread, sea vegetables, 

gem hearts by chef Lewis Sully

Dan Doherty is a busy man, when he’s not in the kitchen of 24 hour restaurant Duck and Waffle, he’s judging competitions, creating dishes on TV or at festivals and much more. But he still finds time to nurture up and coming chefs in the form of Chefs of Tomorrow (COT).

But what is Chefs of Tomorrow and why is it so important to him? “It’s an opportunity for chefs to cook what they want to cook with a group of other chefs, in a new environment with paying customers,” explained Dan. “When would you get to do that unless your boss says ‘put a dish on’. This gives them the opportunity to get the credit for the dish they cooked and likewise the criticism.”

Chefs of Tomorrow began as an idea of Dan's to find a way for young chefs to grow, develop and connect with each other and others in the industry. He joined forces with Anna Sulan Masing to create intimate dinners in an environment that allowed young chefs to work with each other, try new ideas, and ultimately learn. It launched in February 2015, with Series One involving Jose Pizarro at Pizarro's, Petersham Nurseries and Damian Clisby, Sam's of Brighton and Ollie Couillaud, and L'Escargot and Oliver Lesnik.

Dan said: “Chefs of Tomorrow obviously worked really well the first time round, and we are going to do the same format again but we’ve now called it The TMRW project. “We have three events lined up but that’s all I can commit to and to avoid the project being neglected just because I am busy we are going to create ambassadors.  So for example if someone in Edinburgh is interested in doing COT, we can say this is how we do it, these are the rough guidelines - now go for it.”

He added: “It means that the restaurant gets the attention, the chef gets the attention and he can go out and find his own four chefs. The idea is we can spread the project without it being based on me, it can organically grow and we may start with one or two but hopefully we will end up doing one every few weeks.”

The TMRW project is looking to the future of the hospitality industry in the UK. To succeed, to grow and to continue developing this wonderful industry, is to support the people starting out. This project is about finding ways to do that.

It's is a natural evolution from Chefs of Tomorrow, a response to encouraging feedback and including all those that wanted to be involved. It will encompass industry talks, dinners, and opportunities for those coming up in the British culinary world to connect with each other across the hospitality industry.

dan cot
Dan Doherty and the Chefs of Tommorrow

It will be connecting Front of House with Back of House. Series Two of Chefs of Tomorrow starts in April linking up with Jackson Boxer and Brunswick House. Next will be July 4 at Clive Watson’s vodka distillery. Lastly with Michelin Star chef Mark Poynton at Cambridge College in September.

>>> If you want to cook at one of the three Chefs of Tomorrow events click here for more details

The project will also see Dan and his team launch social and networking events based around a topical discussion. In May, The TMRW project will host a ‘Women in the Industry’ panel discussion asking the question - “Are we at a tipping point? Or is the growing number of women in the industry still just the exception to prove the rule?”.

On the panel will be leading chefs, journalist who have seen the industry grow and develop over the years and top FoH and operation managers.

Dan explained: “It won’t be  a panel where people are sat there and it’s really awkward – they’ll tell us about their journey and issues they may have come across. When I‘ve put out the feelers about this a lot of young female chefs have shown an interest.” 

He added: “Whether it’s Chefs of Tomorrow or the panels we are basically trying to get people to connect through the industry. After the first Chefs of Tomorrow we had 16 chefs and they are all mates now, doing stuff together and it’ created a little bubble.

chefs of tomorrow pt1
Chefs of Tomorrow

“Something happened which I didn’t plan, by all of them chipping in and helping each other it took away the competitive element.  I’m not saying you should stifle competitiveness but it can stop the ability to build connections with people. They realised that if they helped the other chef make their dish amazing then the whole dinner would be amazing and successful. Then they were making connections with each other on social media, sharing ideas and working in each other’s restaurants and then hopefully furthering it and doing more popups.”

It’s clear Dan is very passionate about the project and his willingness to take responsibility as one of the many chefs running kitchens in the UK and ‘make sure the future is all good’ is admirable.

He said: “I don’t think the old rules really apply anymore. The whole structure of going to college is obviously important but times are changing you don’t just cook for a really long time then become head chef - you have to be online, you have to be able to go to tables and engage with guests rather than grunting and hiding in a kitchen.

“The life of a chef is very different now and if you can get that into them at a young age it means they are going to be better at it when they are older – there is more to this job than just cooking.”

During Chefs of Tomorrow events the chefs are encouraged go out and introduce their dish, Dan believes it’s important for them to be challenged and asked ‘why did you put that with that?’.

“I think by adding an element like this to their development can only be a good thing. The way it’s being received and the amount of people getting in touch does show that there is a need for it.”

Even if you have been trapped in your kitchen for the past few months it would be hard to avoid the current ‘Chef Shortage’ topic which has chefs from all sectors of the industry debating the cause and the solution. Dan’s project is a step in the right direction but he believes the shortage is not as bad as people are making out.

dan cot 2
Chefs of Tomorrow

“I may be the only one with this opinion but I don’t think the shortage is as bad as everyone thinks it is,” he said. “The amount of chefs has stayed the same it’s just more restaurants have opened. The key thing is chefs now have a choice and if you don’t inspire or give people room to develop and grow then they will leave and go somewhere else. You just need to think of new ways to inspire your team and make people want to work with you.

“Having an accolade or paying shit loads of money is not the answer, it doesn’t make people choose jobs anymore; having the opportunity to go somewhere and do something meaningful and inspiring is more appealing. We as chefs, managers, leaders have to learn to work in a way that inspires people, and just doing that through pure cooking isn’t always it. Whether it’s through supplier trips or doing events, pop ups – there are so many different ways you can be interesting and motivating.

“Staff have to feel like you are investing in them and that’s the mentality that has to change. It’s tough but I think it’s a great thing competing for staff because all it’s going to do is make everyone better at how they treat their staff.”

>>> For more information on The TMRW Project click here

By Cara Houchen


*Image/video credit Ming Tang Evans      

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd February 2016

10 Minutes with: Dan Doherty