Chef Name: Daniel Watkins
Awards: There have been various awards and accolades/achievements over the years. The best is the enjoyment I get from inspiring others.
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
19 years old.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
Home-cooked meals, especially Sunday lunch, which consisted of lots of vegetables as I was brought up vegetarian – which back then, was a strange one.
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
There’s a wealth of inspiration out there, especially with all the social media platforms.
As for inspiring chefs, there’s a few:
Andrew Clarke, London
Gunnar Karl Gíslason, Iceland
Jeremy Fox, USA
Matt Lambert, New Zealand
Lennox Hastie, Australia
René Redzepi, Copenhagen
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland by Gunnar Karl Gíslason
On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Good salt and olive oil.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
Nutritional, healthy, feel-good food. Corn on the cob is a favourite.
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
I’m not hung up on stars – there are so many good places to eat, from street stalls to pop-ups, so I don’t really have one.
And who would you take as your guest?
Just one? Alive? Would need to take a couple.
What do you look for in a good chef?
Good character, personality, attitude.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
Always be calm and have a strong direction.
Give up some of your time, do a couple of trials, and see restaurants and chefs at different times.
Don’t be scared to ask the right questions.
How has the pandemic affected your restaurant? And how did you adapt and evolve throughout?
My restaurant closed at the beginning, so after the first lockdown, myself and Andrew Clarke started a pop-up with live fire-cooking events.
Off the back of the success of these events, we have created ACME Fire Cult.
Can you share any wisdom from the experience so far with others? Have you changed? Has your cooking changed?
I have changed a lot as a person and a chef.
My attitude towards cooking is now more simplistic and relaxed. Still very disciplined, but I’ve found by relaxing and having a good mindset and environment, you produce better food.
The staff, the team you work with, is hugely important – you’re going to spend a lot of time with these guys. Nothing worse than working in a lads’ kitchen, full of egos and attitude.
Personally, I’ve changed because I changed my work life. It’s all about balance, I have suffered for years with depression and anxiety, so by changing my approach to food and work this has helped.
It’s important to find and surround yourself with good people and energy.
Chef Daniel Watkins is currently running ACME Fire Cult (pop up restaurants in London)