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Out Of The Frying Pan: David Gale, Podium, Hilton

Alaka Prodhan finding out what makes city chefs tick

Written by . Published on November 5th 2012.

Out Of The Frying Pan: David Gale, Podium, Hilton

DAVID GALE is Head Chef at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate. His career has taken him from London to New York to San Francisco, but it turns out there’s no place quite like home…

What’s your favourite dish on the menu at the moment?

That’s actually quite a difficult one because we change the menu here every week; not in its entirety, but maybe six or seven dishes a week. We keep it very seasonal, so our menu is flexible.

At the moment, though, we’ve got a couple of really good dishes on the menu. I’m really liking our starter of assiette of duck – home-smoked duck breast, a little rillette made out of the duck leg, a couple of small spring rolls made of the duck leg, and pickled blackberries.

Quack quack and a rollQuack quack and a roll: Assiette of Duck with Confit Leg, Smoked Breast with Pickled Berries and a Hoi Sin Spring Roll

What’s your favourite pudding?

I’m very simple when it comes to puddings but I love lots of them. I love an apple tatin with vanilla ice cream. I love lemon tart. I love fruit crumble in any guise whatsoever – we always have a seasonal fruit crumble here on here. At the moment it’s apple and blackberry.

What’s your favourite fruit?

Well I’m obsessed with my ‘five a day’, so fruit’s quite a big thing for me. Every morning I have a banana, an apple and some sort of clementine/satsuma on my way to work. So, for eating, I’d say bananas. For cooking, I’m a big fan of berries, pineapples, and mangos.

What’s your favourite vegetable?

I’d have to go for the humble potato. Technically it might not be classed as a vegetable, but it’s so versatile. Everyone loves chips; everyone loves mashed potatoes. I have other favourites. Peas – fresh or frozen. I think frozen peas are a fantastic product.

For The Love Of SpudFor The Love Of Spud

What’s your favourite cut of meat?

It’s difficult to nail it down. But if it’s something I would struggle to live without, it would have to be a bacon sandwich – brown sauce, for me, on crusty bread: a real treat. A fantastic aged piece of beef. We have great beef here by Mettricks Butchers in Glossop – I think our beef is, arguably, the best in the city. I love some of the secondary cuts like bavette – eating steak frites in France is an amazing experience. Eating veal in Italy too. Great memories of great food, so I think it would be very unkind to pick out one piece of meat as a favourite. But as an animal I think the pig would have to win. Bacon you see.     

What’s your favourite fish?

This one’s easier: John Dory. It can be difficult to get in Manchester, but St Peter’s or St Pierre’s is my number one fish.

Your guilty pleasure?

Rubbish food. Maybe that’s a bit harsh. But I mean things that you wouldn’t expect a chef to like. Gammon and chips in a pub. Think big pubs: two meals for £8. It’s simple – it’s just a tea. But that and a couple of pints – that’s my guilty pleasure.

What’s the biggest mistake chefs can make when starting to learn the trade?

They can make many mistakes. One is chasing money. When I started it was 50p an hour. I used to get £7 for a day’s work. If you put the work in, you can earn respectable money further down the line. But at the beginning, money shouldn’t be the priority.

Macaroon extravaganzaMacaroon extravaganza: Assiette of Chocolate Desserts with Raspberry Sorbet

What's your favourite meal ever?

I was invited by Mario Batali (click here) to the opening of his restaurant Esca, in the Upper West Side of New York. I had this plate of food: spaghetti and clams. It was just unbelievable. It stopped you. The pasta was so al dente it was nearly raw, but wasn’t. The chilli in it was almost too offensive. The butter that coated the pasta and held the chilli was almost too rich. The amount of clams in there was almost too sweet. The pancetta was almost too salty. But together: unbelievable.

What’s your idea of a perfect service session?

There are just some times when you serve up a plate of food and you think, yeah, that looks great – that’s a lovely piece of food. Obviously you try to do that every time… but self-satisfaction is the key, I think. It’s what chefs do it for. We have our own exacting standards and when you meet those, it’s a real boost to the ego, and that contributes to providing a great service.

What inspired you to become a chef?

The simple answer is that it was the only option. I was thirteen years old. I wasn’t the best scholar, and I was delivering newspapers at The Stanneylands Hotel in Wilmslow.

There was a fantastic chef there at the time called Iain Donald, who’s very prominent in the city - Est Est Est, Piccolino, Restaurant Bar and Grill. He’s the only person in this world I still call ‘Chef’. He asked me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I looked around, at this beautiful posh place with all the Rolls Royces and Bentleys, and I told him I wouldn’t mind owning one of these. The following Monday I started in the kitchen.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love everything about my job, because I love everything about being a chef. I love coming in every morning and putting my whites on. It gives me a sense of purpose.

Chef translates to ‘chief’ and I do believe we are. We should be the holders of integrity. We don’t captain the ship in any way but we’re definitely the oarsmen and the rudder that steer it.

And the least?

I don’t like how, over the years, chefs have become superstars; a lot of the mystery has been stripped away. The media interest in the industry has, to a certain effect, turned it into a job. But in my opinion, we do it, no matter the level, because we love it. To be a chef is a vocation, not a job.

Fish on a rollFish on a roll:  Poached Fillets of Plaice with Creamed Leeks, Spinach, Herb Gnocchi and Roasted Tiger Shrimp

What is the craziest moment of your career?

I think one of my favourite memories is doing Beyoncé’s white-out birthday party on the roof of the Soho House Hotel in New York. I mean, there were lots of famous people there, and musicians and rappers I didn’t know, but it was also just a load of Beyoncé’s friends – normal people. It was definitely one of the nicest star parties I’ve ever done. Can I have another one too?

Of course, fire away.

It was Black Thursday.

Another 220 tonight chefAnother 220 tonight chefI opened up a restaurant called Hush for Sir Roger Moore in Mayfair in London. It wasn’t the best job I’ve ever had… I didn’t really get on with the manager. But it was a lovely little restaurant, on three storeys: a brasserie, a bar and fine dining. I ran it together with my mate Jeremy and we did some great food there.

One day, we were stood in the kitchen looking out the back window onto the courtyard, and this big truck turned up. And all this furniture started coming out the back of it. Suddenly the coverage of the downstairs brasserie increased from about 80 to nearly 300.

At 11.45am, one of the lads got a phone call saying that his brother had been attacked with a sword. So he had to leave. That left three of us in the kitchen. We had 186 people booked, and we ended up serving 300 odd in the space of two and a half hours.

It got to one point during the service that you physically couldn’t speak. It will always go down as ‘Black Thursday’ in my history of services. Jeremy Bloor, he’s a fantastic chef at Oxo Tower in London, still talk about it now, 20 odd years later. Black Thursday, when we worked for James Bond and we were stirred, shaken and destroyed. 

The Podium Restaurant is at the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, 303 Deansgate, M3 4LQ. 061 870 1600 

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9 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Poster BoyNovember 5th 2012.

Strange. Hush was the restaurant of Geoffrey Moore and Jamie Barber. Is someone sprinkling some stardust...?

AnonymousNovember 5th 2012.

Geoffrey is Roger's son. Go put some posters up!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoNovember 6th 2012.

Poster Boy, Poster Boy, you do jump in... His dad financed him.

Poster BoyNovember 7th 2012.

I'm aware of the relationship between Geoffrey and Roger Moore.

Would you refer to Claudio Pulze's Aubergine?, Ratnesh Bagdai's Hix?, Sami Wasif's Hakkasan?, Branson's Petit Blanc, or how about Peter Dubens' Tom Aikens?

Of course not. That's point. Someone, somewhere is seeking validation by celebrity association.

Wood and trees Gordo. Again...

food for thoughtNovember 5th 2012.

Doesn't look to me he is obsessed with his 5 a day

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Alaka ProdhanNovember 5th 2012.

Bit harsh, Food for Thought! David told me that he calculated once that he probably consumes about 5000 calories each day just tasting all the dishes that leave the kitchen. Those rich, creamy spoonfuls add up. Factor in a 70 hr working week and the stereotypical image of the "portly chef" starts to make a lot more sense. Occupational hazard methinks.

avoNovember 6th 2012.

Never trust a skinny chef or food critic for that matter.

Alaka ProdhanNovember 6th 2012.

AVO, is that never trust a food critic, or never trust a skinny food critic?

avoNovember 6th 2012.

Skinny food critic.

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