Joginder Dham, head chef, Old Compton Brasserie

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th October 2018

Joginder Dham is head chef at the Old Compton Brasserie in London.

Joginder is is the head chef at Old Compton Brasserie in Soho London and has previously held positions at D&D’s Butler’s Wharf Chop House, Brasserie Zedel, The Wolseley and Browns Hotel.

The Staff Canteen caught up with Joginder to learn more about his menu style, culinary influences and why you should always let the produce do the talking.

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Joginder in action

Can you tell us about your role at Old Compton Brasserie? 

I’ve always wanted to open a brand-new restaurant, a new opening in Soho, so I think myself very fortunate at Old Compton Brasserie. And my role, I think, is just to make sure that the food is cooked, presented and served as fresh as possible, as seasonable as possible, and to inspire the team with our menu.

As a group, we have an amazing vision of what Old Compton Brasserie should be, and I’m very fortunate to carry the business forward.

How would you describe the food style at Old Compton Brasserie?
Located in the heart of Soho, we cannot be one particular type of food. At the moment, the menu is influenced from all over the world while keeping very rustic, very British.

It’s also very important in this day and age to serve and cater for as many people as possible so everyone can enjoy eating out. That’s why we came up with our plant-based selection - we have a very substantial menu portion for vegan dishes. 

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Seabass

Who has been the biggest culinary influence in your career to date?

In my early career, when I started working at Brown’s Hotel, Mark Hix inspired me. His style in cooking, his honesty for food… From working there, I thought this is how it should be. Let the produce do the talking.

How do you elevate a carrot to taste like more than a carrot? By the end, you know, the carrot should taste like a carrot, don’t lose the taste of it by doing too much to it.

By adding too many things, by adding too many methods, trying too many things, you lose the focus on the flavour. For me, the flavour is very, very important. As a chef, this is what I think every day, this is what I’ve learned from all my experience.  

Talk us through the process of menu and dish creation?

I find it very easy because our menu is dominated by seasonal produce and we work quite closely with suppliers. Our suppliers let us know what’s going to be available and in season, what’s going to end and what’s coming.

Info Bar

Off the menu

Starters

Beetroot Cured Salmon with horseradish crème Fraiche, rye bread

Tempura Prawn Taco with pickled vegetables & citrus mayo

Mains

Grilled Lamb Rump with salt-baked celeriac, kale, pea, broad bean & mint relish

Charred Mackerel with roasted beetroot, butternut squash, caper & dill dressing

Desserts

Rum Baba with Chantilly

Plant-based Chocolate Orange Mousse with mango & lime sorbet

Favourite ingredients

Celeriac

Beetroot

Butter

Garlic

Jerusalem Artichokes

"I love all root vegetables, especially beetroot. Celeriac is also one of my favourites. I love the colour, the smell, the flavour of it. And when it is done, and cooked right, it just tastes very, very good."

Signature dishes

Kedgeree Scotch Eggs

Truffle Roast Chicken with garlic potatoes, wild mushrooms and tarragon sauce

Ham, Egg & Chips with a bacon chop, triple cooked chips, fried egg & grilled pineapple

Sauteed Sea Bass with charred cucumber & spring onions, samphire, caviar

It’s all a little bit of information from everywhere. To me, influence comes from the seasonality and what’s available. From there, the dish is created.

Do you have a vision in mind when you are creating a dish for the first time with regards to how it will look?

Yes, absolutely but at the same time, we try to let the food describe itself. Looking at what produce is available and in season, at the colours, the taste. We try not to put too many things in to elevate the presentation as the main focus is the flavour of everything being cooked and how it has been cooked. I think if you keep those two things in mind, you’ll have the best-looking food in the world

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Rump Lamb

Do you have a favourite dish to cook from the menu?
That’s a very hard question! An effort has gone equally to create each and every dish on the menu. But... If I were to come into the restaurant as a guest, I’d have the grilled lamb rump with salt baked celeriac, kale, pea, broad bean and mint relish.

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Plant-based Chocolate Orange Mousse

How often do you change your menu and does seasonality feature on it?

Yes, absolutely. Our main focus is on seasonality and the menu changes at least four times a year with the different seasons. I think it’s important to keep is seasonal, keep it fresh and to keep our menu as sustainable as possible as well.

The U.K. has, in my opinion, the best produce, and as a chef, at a restaurant group, there is a responsibility to support local farmers, fish suppliers, local butchers. We work very, very closely with all of them. Our menu is very suppliers and season dominated, the food is very seasonal and fresh.

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Scotch eggs

Do you have a favourite season when it comes to produce?

Every season has their own great qualities. In Summer, I love to eat greens and garden peas, asparagus – I love to eat asparagus in Summer. But my favourite season is Autumn.

I really like my roots, celeriac, beetroot, artichokes, and all that nice, meaty, gamey stuff. Roots have a hearty flavour, they’re very aromatic to roast with garlic and thyme. You smell it, you eat it, you just know you’re in Autumn, it gives you that feeling of warmth.

Where do you find your inspiration when creating your dishes?

 I eat a lot, I go to markets to get inspiration about what’s coming into seasons.

On my days off, I just go and have a look at local markets. See what’s available, what will become available in the future, thinking about coming produce. To me, inspiration comes from that, and by eating out, trying new things, by reading books. That sort of thing.

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Rum Baba

How important is innovation to you and how do you incorporate this into your dishes?

The idea with the menu is to be different, to offer something new. The menu is inspired by all over the world at the moment. Located in Soho, everyone is watching what you’re doing, it’s challenging and interesting at the same time.

Why did you want to become a chef and what inspired you to start cooking?

It was all accidental. I was an average student at school and college, studying to cook was more practical and I’ve always wanted to do what was more practical. Once I went into the kitchen... that was it for me. It’s history. 

What's next for you and for Old Compton Brasserie?

We’re very new now, it’s only been six weeks since we opened. We’re going into Autumn so we’re already discussing our new seasonal dishes, planning our menu. I’m keeping the focus on the menu, just making sure we cater for everyone.

By Emma Harrison

@canteenemma

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th October 2018

Joginder Dham, head chef, Old Compton Brasserie