What can we expect from Daniel Clifford's book Out of my Tree?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th June 2018

It’s been over three years in the making, but the highly-anticipated book from the two Michelin-starred chef Daniel Clifford is finally here.

Daniel is chef patron of the two Michelin-starred restaurant Midsummer House in Cambridge. Renowned for his modern British cooking, underpinned by an unmistakably French style, Daniel reinvents British classics using the finest local produce. He has held two Michelin stars since 2005 and is about to release his first book ‘Out of my Tree’ later this month.

Daniel Clifford 13 low res
Daniel Clifford

Daniel explains that the book is chronological from the early days of the restaurant until now.

"That’s what the book is about really, the whole change in myself, the restaurant and the food style – it goes all the way back to the start.”

Celebrating the twenty-year anniversary of Midsummer House, it has been described as ‘part autobiography and part cookbook'. Chef Sat Bains has written the book's foreword which describes it as an ‘open love letter to gastronomy; a letter of heartache, pain, sorrow, absolute elation and joy that you’d have to be fucking nuts to endure.’

Daniel unequivocally agrees with Sat’s description saying: “I think Sat’s forward of the book really hits the nail on the head and shows what I have put myself through  to get where I am, there are not many people that would do it.”

Does he agree you have to be ‘fucking nuts’ to do it?

"As far as I am concerned my life has been nuts and you do have to be slightly nuts to do it!"

That’s why he has named his debut book ‘Out of my Tree’ (that and because the logo for Midsummer House is an apple tree in the garden).

He explained: “People used to say years ago ‘he’s off his head’ or ‘he’s out of his tree’ and to be honest with you, I have always had a bit of a reputation for being a bit of a hot head in the kitchen and you hear so many stories on the grapevine that come back to you, that a lot of it needed to be put out there so people know exactly what has gone on.”

Is the book aiming to set the record straight? Definitely. But it is also a candid record of both Daniel’s journey and the journey of Midsummer House over the last twenty years. It reveals the pressure Daniel has put himself under and what it is taken to get Midsummer to where it is today.

He said: “I remember the day when we got two stars, it wasn’t expected and we didn’t set out to get two stars. Then we got them and the pressure of having two stars was immense. The problem is that mentally - I don’t think I was ready for it and that’s explained in the book.”

Braised Pork Belly Carrots & Ginger 15 amended low res
Braised Pork Belly Carrots & Ginger

He added: “It’s great that we were cooking that style of food and it’s great that we received it, but the pressure that it puts on you as a person – that’s difficult to deal with. It’s not difficult doing what you do daily because you have been awarded stars because your food is good enough, but the thing is people are telling you how good you are but personally believing it - that’s the hardest thing to achieve.”

Change is a continuous theme throughout the book. The highs are naturally included, but Daniel has also been sure to note the low points as well.

He said: “There is a lot that happens behind the scenes that people don’t know about it. We have had fires here, we’ve had flooding, we’ve had the windows put through, animal rights attacking us for foie gras - but you wake up every day and you want to make it better." 

One of the issues that the book covers is about making a restaurant financially viable which Daniel admits can be difficult.

He said: “You are fighting against yourself the whole time. I think that’s what the book really explains. I’ve done my twenty years of graft now – I’ve done the stressful bit and now it’s sort of me sitting back saying I am proud of what we have achieved, but we are going to go down a different route now.”

Whilst this has been a huge project for Daniel, he has also enjoyed having previous members of staff share their anecdotes in the book including Matt Gillan, Russell Bateman, Tim Allen and Lawrence Yates. All of whom were making suggestions to Daniel of what dishes to include in the book. With twenty years’ worth of recipes to choose from, finalising the final selection was no easy task and Daniel had to reduce a list of over 190 potential recipes down to a final list of 140.

“Some of the original dishes you look back now and think how did that ever get on to the menu?" He explained. "But, we put these dishes in as I wanted the recipes and the book to explain the journey that we have been on. There are some dishes in there that say, ‘this was my mindset at that time'.” 

Bacon & Egg 15 amended low res
Bacon & Egg

And which dish would represent Daniel’s mindset right now? Answering almost immediately, he says: “I think it’s the kidney dish probably – that’s probably the dish that I am most proud of.”

He also reveals some other personal highlights saying: “The scallop dish has been on the menu since day one. That’s been the dish that we have worked towards and we have always said we can’t take that off because we can’t beat it. There are some bizarre ones that are in there there’s a palm tree made from a tuile with a chocolate ice cream that’s one of the first desserts we ever put on.”

Palm trees aside, as the reader progresses through the book, the recipes show not only the progression of the restaurant but, the progression of Daniel’s mindset too. He reveals that the later Midsummer House recipes are ‘simpler and more concentrated on flavour’.

Daniel’s book has been in development for three and a half years, but he wanted to do something for Midsummer’s twenty-year anniversary.

“We (Midsummer) have some history and it was time to do it really.”

He also wanted to do it for his five daughters too, citing that writing the book has afforded him the opportunity to tell his story openly to them, having missed a lot of their lives because of his work.

Daniel has also had 50 copies of his book printed in leather (with five copies going to his children) which are available to buy. For the first 500 people who have ordered a copy of ‘Out of my Tree,’ there is an opportunity to win a golden ticket which will provide the lucky winner with an opportunity to win a table for four at Midsummer House where they will get to experience some of the dishes featured in the book.

Daniel said: “You can save yourself a load of money just by buying a book!”

He added: “I can’t wait for it to be out there and for people to start looking at it – to see what the fuss is all about! To be honest with you I am pleased with it – it’s going to be an eye-opener for a lot of people!”

By Emma Harrison

@canteenemma

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th June 2018

What can we expect from Daniel Clifford's book Out of my Tree?