'I think a lot of it comes down to insecurity in your own cooking.'

The  Staff Canteen

In a recent episode of the nightcap podcast host Paul Foster, chef-owner of one Michelin-starred Salt, was joined by Nathan Davies, chef-owner of Michelin-starred SY23

In this episode, one topic the pair discussed was the old adage: keep it simple. Both chefs are known for the simplicity of style, with SY23 being known specifically for being all flame-grilled food.

They discussed how, when it comes to overdoing dishes, there are many pitfalls chefs can fall into with Paul saying: "Sometimes when there’s too much technique in a dish it’s like they’re taking something and overworking it, over manipulating it.

"It’s always been a common problem.  I think a lot of it comes down to insecurity in your own cooking."

Which was a sentiment that Nathan agreed with adding: "It’s definitely insecurity and what you get, I reckon, with young chefs is [that] they want to throw the kitchen sink at it. They want to show how good they are. They want to show how much they are learning."

But it is not only their opinion, Paul also mentioned how when they spoke to Brad Carter, in an earlier season of the podcast, he had also discussed how he knew he'd ‘made it’ when a meal was simply 'meat and sauce'. Once he’d taken everything out of the meal that he could take out, then the meal is good enough.

On the other side, Nathan talked about how some chefs and restaurants, such as The Fat Duck, can make lots of ingredients or techniques work in their dishes. He said: "If Great chefs can pull it all off, it can be done, and lots of restaurants do it - they’ll have a lot of separate dishes or quite a lot of ingredients on a plate.

"But, it’s the opposite of what I do and […] it’s definitely not what [Paul does]."

Speaking about his style of cooking Nathan said: "When we bring [a dish] back on the menu, rather than adding something, we’re always taking something out."

"You’re just sliming it down rather than adding to it," he explained. "And just making it more of a pure thing. Buying the best ingredients, that’s what the pursuit is more for me now, rather than loads of techniques it’s like ‘is this the best lamb, the best halibut, the best turbot?’

"I get more enjoyment from that than I get throwing 15 techniques at that beautiful piece of fish. I’d rather just put it on a clamp and put it on the fire."

Responding to this Paul said: "When your food is like that it shows you’re using great ingredients and you’ve got confidence in it. Which isn't the case when you see  loads of components on a plate."

However, Paul did say 'people are masters' of that..

"Like Fat Duck because they’ve got 40 odd chefs and their technical ability is another level."

He did say that often when it came to smaller teams or more inexperienced chefs then it was done in aid of "hiding bad ingredients", saying: "If it’s not good enough on its own and you need to keep adding this stuff then what are you getting?"

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th June 2022

'I think a lot of it comes down to insecurity in your own cooking.'