Chef Watch – Dan Ashmore, Head Chef Elect at The Strathearn, Gleneagles
This is the first of a monthly series about chefs of note. Do you have a favourite you think should be featured? Let me know.
Why did you become a chef?
I’ve always enjoyed cooking and felt if I was going to do something for the rest of my life it might as well be something I love. I couldn’t just sit behind a desk all day. I wasn’t bad at school but found it quite mundane. I love the day to day challenge of being a chef, though I must say being a head chef has a lot more paperwork than I previously expected.
I’m a huge fan of fish/shellfish and Scottish game. I’ve used it my whole career, in Sheffield, London and now up here it’s so nice to have become friends with the suppliers who have given me access to these amazing ingredients for so long now.
Favourite or signature dish?
That’s a tough one, I’ll be speaking about The Pompadour here as I’ve not yet started at The Strathearn.
I’d like to think we built on dishes over the years at The Pomp, and that while things came back on the menu from time to time, such as the salted caramel soufflé, or Isle of Wight tomato salad, we never really stood still. It’s my hope that people could see a plate of food and say, “that’s from The Pompadour”, that we developed a recognizable style.
Favourite kitchen tool or equipment (apart from sharp knives)?
A reliable probe is always in my tool case. There are things you can do by touch etc, but a probe is indispensable for accuracy.
Whetstones to keep your knives in good condition are essential too. It means you can buy good quality knives and keep them sharp for life, rather than treat them as disposable.
Another tough one as there are so many! I’ve been lucky to work for most of them! I think the way Phil Howard talks about food is inspiring, when I was at The Square the question “is it delicious?” was asked about everything everyone made. It was all about flavour there. Tom Aikens is an unrelenting force in the kitchen and his drive and passion definitely rubbed off on me from my time with him. As for one I haven’t worked for, Alex Dilling at The Greenhouse in Mayfair is pushing so hard and will no doubt get 3 stars soon. I was lucky enough to eat there last year and it was the best meal I’ve ever had
Any food you can’t/won’t eat?
Nope, I’m open to anything! I was cooking in China in 2018 and we went out for dinner with the chefs, this plate of sautéed bugs came out. The chefs thought we would be too scared to try them so were trying to convince us they were Jerusalem artichokes They were impressed when we knew what they were and still went for it.
Comfort food/guilty food secret?
Living by the coast I do love a good chippy every now and again! Chippy sauce was new to me when I moved up here but it’s an essential for a good plate of fish and chips.
Stupidest customer or kitchen experience
Haha! I’ve not had any that really stand out as overly outrageous. I think I’ve just been lucky as I know there are some horror stories out there.
A bit more about Dan Ashmore
Dan started cooking at a local garden centre cafe when he was 15 through work experience, then college, then a move to a busy local brasserie then in his third year at college. That was followed by Fischers at Baslow Hall (Bakewell, Derbyshire). Then to London, The Square with Tom Aikens. Met a good woman and moved to her home town of Port Seton. Sous chef at Number One at the Balmoral and Hadrian’s in Edinburgh, then Head Chef at The Pompadour at The Caledonian (Waldorf Astoria).
Starts as Head Chef at The Strathearn Restauarant, Gleneagles on March 2. In charge of the restaurant, afternoon teas, room service dining, private dining and a few other things.
My husband’s favourite daft customer complaint was concerning an organic, free range, breakfast boiled egg – it was too yellow so he must have dyed it – to put the lady’s mind at rest he came into the restaurant with a white bowl and another egg which he cracked into the bowl – Ah ha -she said – I suppose you injected it with colour in the kitchen!