“To cook for someone and to feed someone is one of the most special things you can do for them.”
If a Hollywood director was casting for the role of modern chef in a new movie, he’d be looking for someone exactly like Dan Doherty.
Young, handsome and charming, with tattoos illustrating his arms and a cheeky grin that lights up a room, he’s passionate about the work he does and has built up a loyal following of foodies both in his native England as well as across the world.
If you’ve never heard of his name, or seen him pop up one of the British TV cookery shows where he is always a welcome guest, then take note now. Not only has the Chef Director of London’s Duck & Waffle restaurants spearheaded a British food renaissance over the past few years, the way he is shaking-up the eating out experience in London will still be influencing chefs in decades to come.
As a chef, food is obviously hugely important to Dan, but it’s the way he talks about it, with a broad smile on his face, that sets him apart from other chefs. When he talks about what food means to him you can see the smile in his eyes, and his enthusiasm is infectious.
“Food is hugely important, there’s the obvious nourishment side of it for a start, but most importantly I think it’s about how you nourish one’s soul. I think food shouldn’t just be about eating to stay alive, it should be about sharing. To cook for someone and to feed someone is one of the most special things you can do.”
Many Londoners have spent an enjoyable meal in Duck & Waffle in Heron Tower, the 24-hour gourmet restaurant where you can watch the sun rise or set while you peruse the menu. Then there’s Dan’s newer restaurant in London’s West End, named Duck & Waffle Local, in the area south of Piccadilly, in St James’s Market.
But aside from the duck that his restaurants are named after, Dan is also passionate about Italian food and ingredients, and Prosciutto di San Daniele in particular.
“Having travelled around Italy for a fair few years, being inspired by the food and culture, there are a few products that just jump out at you, and Prosciutto di San Daniele is one of them,” he explains.
“It’s one of those products that I always look out for when I’m going to buy prosciutto, it’s my go-to prosciutto. It has been made for generation after generation in a little town called San Daniele del Friuli, which is a beautiful town with an incredible micro-climate.
“When the prosciutto is being naturally air cured and is hanging, that’s how it develops its incredible, delicate flavour.”
It’s true to say that Italian cuisine has inspired Dan in his journey to becoming one of London’s most famous chefs.
“Italian food is probably the one true cuisine that you look to when you think of actual flavour, from the sourcing of the ingredients to how Italian people treat and respect them,” he tells us from his Heron Tower kitchen.
“But most importantly, it’s how they share that experience with one another, whether that’s a family gathering or a nice feast, everyone sitting around the table enjoying the whole vibe. I think that’s really important and I think that’s something we can all take away from the way the Italians do it.”
When it comes to eating Prosciutto di San Daniele at his family table, Dan likes to celebrate both the tradition of English eating as well as Italian heritage.
“I think if you’re going to do a huge feast, like a Sunday roast, which I love to do at home, it can be quite complex.
You’ve got large joints of meat, some potatoes roasting and vegetables to cook, so to take the pressure off, I like having a large platter of freshly carved Prosciutto di San Daniele so both myself and my guests can graze on it accompanied by a glass of prosecco. It takes the pressure off the kitchen, and everyone’s having a great time.”
Even though Dan is known for having introduced something exciting and new to London’s restaurant scene, that innovation is based on the importance of heritage, tradition and sustainability.
He points to the importance of Prosciutto di San Daniele’s DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ in English) and the way it ensures that certain rules must be followed in the making of our prosciutto.
“When you have a wonderful product such as Prosciutto di San Daniele, you have to protect the way it’s made.
“People have spent a lot of time honing their skills to make this wonderful product so we need to protect that to ensure that the integrity remains, so that we will always have this great product.”