myCornwall interviewed Daniel Dennis, Head Chef at the St Ives Harbour Hotel.
Daniel Dennis, Head Chef at St Ives Harbour Hotel has a lot to offer locals and tourists alike, who are looking for an exquisite dining experience to enhance their coastal visit. Set back in to the cliff edge, the hotel offers diners classic dishes whilst enjoying one of the best views in St Ives, the unspoilt stretch of Porthminster beach. So who is the man behind the mastery?
I started cooking at a very young age and began my first job working in a kitchen at 14 through the ‘By Word of Mouth’ catering company in London. I then won a scholarship to Claridges where I worked for six years before moving down to Devon and working for Dart Mariner in Dartmouth. My next move took me to Salcombe Harbour Hotel and finally here at St Ives.
To be a good chef you have to have a certain amount of discipline and you have to really want to do it. The modern chef not only has to understand what their customers want but also what the business demands are and what ingredients are available to them. There’s no point me wanting English asparagus in the winter, you have to work with the seasons. You have to understand a lot of different elements and then tie them all together.
When seeking inspiration I tend to look to chefs like Heston Blumenthal and restaurants like El Bulli and Noma. All we’re doing is reinventing something that somebody did years before. We’re taking classic dishes and adding our own unique twist. That’s one of the Harbour Hotel’s unique appeals that they have the Harbour Classics, the owner likes and believes in those classical values of cooking and has a focus on using seasonal produce.
A high percentage of our products are sourced locally and I’ve built up a rapport with many of our suppliers. We have a local dairy, Mounts Bay Dairy, as well as a local egg supplier, local butcher and fish supplier. These local ingredients form the key elements of each of our dishes and the aim is to try and serve the best that you can and put a bit of love in to it.
My earliest food memories are with my granddad. He was a great cook and if we were cooking a Chinese or an Indian we would go to China Town or Brick Lane and buy all the ingredients from authentic shops. Nowadays most supermarkets stock the products but back in the 90’s you didn’t get soy sauce everywhere.
Simple ingredients like arborio rice for a risotto are underrated in cooking. You can make some truly fantastic things with it, it doesn’t have to be loaded with foie gras or truffles, you can make very cheap ingredients very tasty, and again if you put that little bit of love in to it then you’re going to get it back.
Choosing one food hero is no easy task. I trained under John Williams, who is now the Executive Chef at the Ritz, and is a great ambassador for the development of young chefs, but I also admire Martyn Nail the Executive chef at Claridges, and a great German chef called Eyck Zimmer. You have the big names like Gordon Ramsey but you also have the workhorses hidden behind the scenes. I couldn’t pick an obvious name, as there are so many.
Monkfish with tomato, basil and olive compote and purple potatoes
300g Plum tomatoes
100ml Extra virgin olive oil
1 Shallot finely diced
1 Sprig of basil
50ml Red wine vinegar
1 tspn sugar
1 handful of herb salad
500g Purple potato
Start by blanching the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds and plunging them into ice water. Peel the skins off and cut in to four, remove the seeds and dice into ½ cm squares. Cut the olives in to quarters and mix with the tomatoes, olive oil, shallot, vinegar and sugar in a sauce pan. Boil the potatoes in their skins in salted water until tender. Remove the skins and crush with the back of a folk, add a knob of butter and season. Gently warm the tomato mix not allowing it to boil, remove from the heat and finish with basil and season to taste. Heat a non-stick pan with a little oil and place the monkfish in the pan. Colour on the one side until golden then turn, and add a knob of butter, place in a preheated oven at 180°c for 6 minutes. Allow to rest and carve into 4 before serving
Drain the monkfish on to a cloth and spoon the potato on to the plate. Add some spinach and place the fish on top. Spoon some of the compote around the fish and top with some dressed herb salad.
St Ives Harbour Hotel
The Terrace, St Ives, Cornwall
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‘MEET THE CHEF: Daniel Dennis of The Bucher’s Bistro, Newquay’ is taken from our August/September 2012, Vol.2 Issue 13. Subscribe to myCornwall magazine for more stories like this one.