Daniel Clifford on the menu for the AA Restaurant Guide 2017 Hospitality Awards and cooking for 1200 people!

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 23rd September 2016

It’s been 12 months since Daniel Clifford, chef patron of two Michelin-starred Midsummer House and recently opened Flitch of Bacon, was crowned the AA Restaurant Guide 2016 Chef’s Chef at the annual Hospitality Awards.

He was taken aback when his name was called and then he realised he would be cooking for the same 1200 hospitality industry guests next year…..nervous chef?

“It’s the numbers! To do food for those kind of numbers is the scariest thing ever,” explained Daniel. “First of all you have a room full of your peers, you’re judged on every single plate of food which is put down, the chefs in the kitchen have got to be able to deliver it and the worst thing is you’re not in the kitchen cooking it! You are sat at the table – it’s the most cringe worthy experience you will ever put yourself through because someone else is cooking your food.”

He added: “Good luck to whoever wins it this year because it’s been an absolute rollercoaster getting that menu up. To do what we do at Midsummer for 1200 people is near enough impossible. We’ve had to work really closely with the Grosvenor House Hotel and I think we’ve nailed it, I really do.

“Last year Nathan’s (Outlaw) was so good, it was probably the best banqueting food I’ve ever had – at the time I thought ‘how am I going to beat this?’”

>>> Find out more about Daniel and watch his videos here

Daniel will be serving an eel dish to start with celeriac and apple, it’s a dish with 18 years of Midsummer Heritage which has evolved.

He said: “I put smoked eel on because one it’s an underused ingredient, second it’s an amazing ingredient and thirdly the awards is full of industry. Everyone in the industry should be real foodies so they should love it. A lot of people would turn their nose up at smoked eel.”

For the main course guests can look forward to an ox cheek pudding, it was a course that was discussed a lot as Daniel says cooking meat, perfectly, for that amount of people is ‘near enough impossible’.

“Two years ago we put a suet pudding on the menu at Midsummer and it was a massive statement,” explained Daniel. “It wasn’t really the style of food that people were expecting when they were coming to a two star restaurant. But everyone was blown away by it.

“We’ve done three run-throughs with the hotel now and it’s amazing! You don’t see it on menus anymore, it’s an old school classic and I think the younger chefs may be shocked by it but the older generation will sit there and say ‘this is amazing’.

Dessert is a lemon posset with blueberries and meringue, a pre dessert from Midsummer. Daniel thinks a lot of people will be shocked by his menu, he said: “It’s not what people would expect from me but I can’t wait. The menu is a very small part of the night, there are lots of winners in that room and it’s just a great social event.”

We spoke to Daniel at last year’s awards just after he had won his Chefs’ Chef title and he couldn’t believe it, after a year has it finally sunk in?

“It’s the biggest honour a chef can have,” explained Daniel. “It’s one of those things, you start your career and you think about it and look at the legends who have won it, and you never see yourself there. So yeah, what an amazing achievement!

“It’s not one where a guide book has been around and judged you on, this is one the rest of the industry has voted for so I’m really proud of it.”

This time around the AA have announced the short list of chefs for the first time ahead of the awards. On Monday we will find out who will be getting their hands on this much sought after accolade and joining Daniel on the formidable list of past winners.

“There’s a serious list of talent there and you can’t judge it,” says Daniel. “They are all amazing people who have done amazing things for this industry so it could go to any of them. I was sat with Claire Smyth last year and we both said ‘it would be amazing to win but the biggest problem is you have to cook the dinner next!’”

Daniel is keeping his cards pretty close to his chest about who he would like to see win it but when asked who he would pick if it was down to the food he will be eating next year when he isn’t in the spotlight he said: “Well Sat has already done it so I’d like to see Claire do it!”

By Cara Houchen

@canteencara

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 23rd September 2016

Daniel Clifford on the menu for the AA Restaurant Guide 2017 Hospitality Awards and cooking for 1200 people!