One of the capital’s fastest-rising food stars keeps it simple: to succeed - work hard, never be late, and never be sick. Oh, and start hosting dinner parties when you’re still in primary school...
Admit it, most of us have memories of doing our homework on the bus. But the reason is probably more to do with late night Playstation sessions, or just general teenage shirking. For Daniel Adams, chef at the Michelin-starred Marcus Restaurant at the Berkeley Hotel in London, his public transport homework sessions on a Sunday night followed an 11 hour shift at his aunt's restaurant. Which was after a full Saturday learning the ropes at one of London’s most prestigious kitchens.
But, as the 18 year old whizzkid explains: “If you want to work with the best, you’ve got to turn up, work hard, and push through. Everything else in your life has to just fit around it.”
For Daniel, the bug bit very early on. "I was ten when I started cooking" he tells Jack. “My passion for home baking grew and grew until eventually I found myself reading more complicated cook books and creating dishes for mum and dad that were a little out of the ordinary!”
As you do.
The precocious chef-in-waiting was soon hosting supper clubs for family and friends, and the word spread. “Every day was a cookery day!” he says.
“That’s when I really fell down the rabbit hole and getting really into fine dining,” Daniel says, admitting it was a TV show featuring molecular gastronomy maverick Heston Blumenthal that really fired up his ovens.
“When I saw Heston creating all these scientific experiments, and blending state-of-the-art tech with really fresh, seasonal ingredients, that was it – I knew that’s where my future lay.”
So, the journey began. Initially, Daniel spent his weekends working at one of his aunt’s restaurants in London’s busy Marble Arch: “I was literally polishing the glasses for like, months!” he laughs. But, from his behind-the-bar vantage point, Daniel had a clear line of sight into the kitchen. And that’s where he made his next move.
“I started on cold dishes, pastries and desserts, but I knew I wanted to move on to new challenges, so I emailed the head chef at Marcus, the two Michelin-starred restaurant,” Daniel says.
A shrine to contemporary British food, Marcus Wareing’s flagship London restaurant epitomises all that’s exciting in the capital’s burgeoning food scene. Home to the hottest tables in the city, Marcus only accepts the best of the best to be part of its busy brigade.
“The head chef took me on for a trial, which I passed, and I was taken on to work every Saturday there for six months. That’s when I started doing my homework on the tube home after my aunties’!”
Social life? Forget it!
“Yes, I missed all that, but the rewards I got in return are so much more substantial,” he says.
Having grown up in a family with hospitality in its DNA, Daniel knew about the hard work that goes with the territory. But even he wasn’t prepared for the blood, sweat and tears that went into every service at the top flight restaurant.
“You know the hours are long but until you’re there you don’t understand what exactly is expected of you. I put in around 60 hours a week, working from 8am to midnight.”
Now a full member of the Marcus team, Daniel’s had a stint on practically every one of the kitchen’s sections: “It’s a great experience for when I open up my own place, possibly in Cornwall. That’s the dream,” he says.
Which is to say, despite the long hours and the relentless pursuit of perfection, Daniel’s love affair with food hasn’t waned. If anything, it’s grown stronger. For Daniel, it’s about food at its freshest, prepared with the minimum of fuss, and served as close to its place of origin as possible.
Jack’s speaking to the young chef while he’s on holiday in Cornwall. This afternoon, he’s been sea fishing for turbot. This evening, he’ll barbecue it, with a lick of olive oil and a scattering of Maldon sea salt. It really doesn’t get better than this. “This is my perfect holiday,” he smiles.
Sounds like he’s earned it.
“Yes, the atmosphere at work can be tense, and the pressure unrelenting” he admits. “Marcus is a great boss, but you need an element of control in the kitchen, if you’re to keep standards high.”
Never more so has that been tested than when the restaurant lost one of its coveted stars last year, dropping from two to one-star status.
“Everyone was very upset, understandably so,” Daniel says. “We really, really want to get it back. We work so hard. But at the end of the day, Michelin isn’t the most important thing. Our first priority is our customers. We want every one of them to leave with a smile on their face. That’s what drives me.”
And what of that smoke-filled, flame-scorched galley? That must play havoc on the young chef’s skin? “That’s why I love Urban Jack’s products,” Daniel says. “They’ve seriously made such a difference, and calmed my skin down so much.”
Sadly, they can’t turn down the heat in the kitchen, but we’ve got a feeling Daniel wouldn’t want it any other way.