Danny Davies – private estate Chef from the UK
Danny Davies, Super-yacht and Private Estate Chef from the UK, about his experiences out of this special chef segment.
Do you remember the day when you decided to become a chef?
I was 13 years old and I had been asked to help out the landlady of a local pub that my mum worked at on Sunday. Sunday was their busiest day doing around 50 to 60 traditional Sunday roast meals. At first, I washed the dishes and helped to serve the food. But as the weeks went on I learnt how to peel carrots and potatoes. After only a few months I was cooking the whole thing with very little help from the landlady. I really enjoyed it and felt part of a team. that was the main reason I became hook on cooking. When I was 15 I was offered a job across the street at a new seafood restaurant. I worked there as the second chef and dishwasher. I learnt so much and quickly became totally committed to becoming a chef. The head chef taught me how to order, stock-take and develop dishes and menus.
You visited the High Peak Catering Collage in Buxton UK. What was your most valuable personal and professional learning out of this time?
When I left school I knew I was going to be a chef and join the catering college with a good amount of knowledge. I really enjoy my time at catering college and grew as a chef with a deeper understanding of flavours and food. I did a modern cookery course which involved new techniques and covered the accounting side of running a kitchen. This proved to be so valuable to me as I now had the understanding of how a business made money and how to make sure a restaurant was profitable. After leaving college(2 years) I was offered a head chef apprenticeship at an Italian hotel that had an 80 seater restaurant. After 3 months I took over as head chef at the age of 18 years old. I ran a tight ship and we were very successful. I work 6 to 7 days a week and lived and breathed the lifestyle. I was young and thought I was the next Gordon Ramsey.
Within this time you have been part of the Chef class 1-British Armed forces. Can you tell us something more about it?
I joined the Army at 19 years old after a year as the head chef of an Italian restaurant and hotel. I wanted to travel and see the world. My first posting was in Germany and I had to start again from the bottom up. I quickly adapted and was placed in the office mess cooking high-level fine dining food for offices of the regiment. I found that large events fun and loved the stress of producing huge amounts of food to a very high level my thing. I would volunteer for everything which allowed me to complete the following. Ski instructor, Arctic survival, Jungle survival, Miltary diver, Urban warfare, Marksman class 1, Snipper course, helicopter gunner and repel course, and complete a parachute course. I travelled far and wide including New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afganistan, Kosovo, Poland, Kuwait and Canada to mention a few. I finished my career in the Army as the chef to Prince Harry and William in Windsor.
As chef at the British Armed forces: did you have any space for creativity😊?
Being creative in the Amry was a necessity we would have limited time and resources and sometimes be dropped off in the middle of nowhere and just be given a time the soldiers would be arriving for food and you had to crack on and get something ready for them! Hot tea and bacon sandwiches was a winner. At the larger events and horse racing events, I was able to spread my wings with the food and really go to town with what I could cook.
From 2009 until 2014 you worked as Chef Lecturer at the k Collage, and from 2014-2016 as Executive Chef Lecturer at the Bromley College. Being a chef lecture is a great job and chance to young people encouraged for this great job. What have been your positive memories at this time?
I really enjoyed teaching. I had to go back to school myself and get a teaching degree which was hard work alongside teaching every day. I had classes of very mixed abilities from adult learners that wanted to know skilled techniques and molecular cookery such as sous vide and high-level pastry skills to learners with extra learning needs. I work closely with a specialist school for speech and language students. Which was one of the reasons I developed the future chef project videos, which I later used the same format for the London career college at Bromley college. Working with the students in their own student-run kitchens and restaurant was a great challenge, great fun and hard work. I hope I helped a few students become chefs. But I know I helped all my students get on in life better, Work Hard, Play Hard and Team Work Makes the Dream Work where always my catchphrases. I’m still in touch with a few students and I feel proud to see them grow as Chef and enjoy the industry as I did as a young Chef.
In 2016 you worked as an Executive Chef at The Manor at Bickley, a Boutique Hotel and Wedding venue in South London with fine dining restaurant. What makes it so special to work as a ”wedding chef”, with pro and cons?
I was asked to help a failing hotel became a wedding venue. I had to use my skills to create a website and get very involved in the hotel’s marketing, social media and develop and preferred suppliers group. I worked at an executive level so was able to have complete control over every aspect of the hotel’s operations. I hired and fired staff, I created operational processed and project managed a new build kitchen from design to installation. I also worked with contracted to develop the hotel wedding offerings. We converted a badminton court into a wedding chapel and put a 500 person marque on the property. I developed the menus and trained the kitchen staff to deliver it. I created and organised photo shoots and media for print. I was very pushed to do as much as i could to develop this £8million property and loved every minute of its success. My good friend is now the GM and I very much still involved with helping out when I’m back in the UK.
The Future Chef Project; a Chef services for super yachts and private estates world-wide. Can you tell us something about this work (of course no secrets😊)?
As a superyacht chef I have come into my own. I love the water and was a dive master for a little over 9 months in Fiji. I have worked on a huge and beautiful 123meter Royal yacht in Barcelona, I cannot say too much about the yacht as I had to sign a confidentiality clause in my contract. My next Yacht job was on a 50 meter as sole chef based in the Bahamas. Really hard work as you have to do everything. I was no longer in a team or leading one. I was the team from wash dishes to sweeping the floor. I had to do everything and do it at the highest level. I would create all my dishes from scratch, shop for provisions and meet with the owners every morning. Always on call! Again I loved it especially being at sea.
What makes it so special to work as chef at the private yachting business?
The best part is the crew and of course telling my fellow chef where the yacht is heading next! It is great to work with good people and not have your kitchen in one place all the time. I love travelling and cooking is my life so the best thing for me is being a super yacht chef.
What are the latest trends among the UK chef community?
Farm to plate is the latest trend and i really respect chef that can do this. I try but on isolated islands in the Caribbean, it is hard to do. I use my Sous Vide water heater (Joule by Chef Steps) a lot on the boat. It allows me to create perfect dishes ahead of time and have them ready to go at a moments notice. Planning is so important on the yacht and being able to adapt and change things at a moments notice is vital. by having everything sous vided and sorted away. I can produce perfectly cooked dishes quickly and with minimal mess.
From your point of view, what are the most interesting chef competitions in the UK?
I think that the national chef of the year competition is the most interesting. I took part in 2012, I was the second chef for a student. we got to the final which was a great success for us both. The competition is hot with many chefs becoming the next big thing when they win. Gordon Ramsey won this competition and it put him on the map!
Can you share one of your “British” cooking trick/tip with us?
Roast Potatoes and Yorkshire pudding the most British of food ever. Tip one. Choose a good quality waxy potato and make sure you pre-boil them. Allow them to cool and toss in melted butter, season flour and roast at a high temp until golden brown. Tip 2 Yorkshire pudding, the mix is very simple the important thing is to get the oven very hot. Put in the pud tin with a little oil in each mould and get this really hot too. then pour out the mix and bake until they rise and go golden brown. Turn down the heat and let them bake a little longer so that they stand crisp and are cooked through.
What is your today’s favourite dish?
My Favourite dish to make is sushi. I worked alongside a japanise chef called the white dragon a few months back and he taught me some crazy sushi skills. Everyone loves sushi and its great to be able to have this skill.
In 10 years from now, where do you want to work as a chef?
In 10 years I would be very happy to be still working on yachts. I have moved into consulting and help failing businesses. Recently, I have been working with businesses that are not related to cookery, such as casinos, photographers and designers. My latest social media and website build has been for a wedding floral design company based in South Florida. So, for now, I’d like to still be on yachts but who knows what install for me next.