Interview with the Swiss Cook Chef

Interview with the Swiss Cook Chef

David Allistone will be our Swiss Cook chef this winter and will be delighting guests with his delicious meals throughout the season, both as a private chef cooking for clients in their apartments, as well as providing hearty home-made Swiss Cook meals, delivered to client's fridges ready for them to pop in the oven or microwave after a beautiful day on the slopes. We chatted to him about his career, where his passion for cooking started and his experience of working for us previously as our Swiss Cook chef, plus he shared a recipe with us for scrumptious chickpea dahl.

1. Where did you learn to be a chef and what drew you to the career?

I first started cooking when I was young, about 10 years old, with my mum and my nan, cooking big family meals when we all got together. That was when I first became interested in cooking. I followed my passion and chose a career that would allow me to do what I love. I first learned to cook at college when I was 16 doing my NVQ in food service and never looked back. 

2. What would you say is your signature dish or one you enjoy making the most? 

A signature dish of mine would be my chocolate fondant. Making desserts is generally not my strongest skill but this is one that I excel at and it's just so delicious to eat and always a crowd-pleaser. When I’m at home I really enjoy making a curry from scratch, making the curry paste, gently cooking everything down and getting a perfect balance of flavours. It's a long process (I could start making it at 2 pm and cook it all day until about 9 pm) but it is so worth the effort.

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3. What ingredient couldn't you live without?

I couldn’t live without oils. I wouldn’t be able to cook anything, make any dressings, use flavoured oils to add a burst of intensity. I wouldn’t be able to cater properly for vegans. You can also make a wide range of desserts with oils. It's such an essential ingredient and I could not live without it.

4. Do you enjoy cooking with local Swiss ingredients? How do they differ from the ingredients back home in the UK?

I really enjoy cooking with the ingredients available in Switzerland the quality of vegetables, salads, and herbs seem to be better. There is also a wider variety of dairy products available in supermarkets and the meat is just fantastic! A lack of fish and seafood is a bit limiting, however being in the mountains it's completely understandable and somehow, with the cold climate, fish is not generally at the top of most people's ideal menus. I really enjoy cooking in the Swiss Alps and using all the lovely produce that's available.

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5. Working as Powder Byrne’s Swiss Cook means cooking for clients in their own apartment. What makes cooking in a client’s apartment different from cooking in a restaurant?

It is very different cooking in front of guests compared to cooking in an industrial kitchen. You have to be on your best behaviour and super tidy, and if you make a mistake you can’t react, you have to stay calm and deal with the issue. 

It also means a lot of multitasking. You're the chef, the waiter, and the kitchen porter all in one, and if you're really good you can be the barman too. It's an exciting experience and very rewarding to serve a special meal in a family's home based on their preferences. 

The clients are always interested in what's for dinner and often ask how I’ve made it, for some tips or for the recipe. I find it really enjoyable talking food with anyone so its a big plus for me when I can do that with an interested client.

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6. Who or what has had the biggest influence on your cooking and your approach to food?

My family has been one of the biggest influences on my cooking. Some members of my family have allergies and intolerances and others are on special diets so since the beginning I've learned to modify my usual way of cooking to suit their needs without compromising on taste, which has been a really useful skill. The other big influence was Anthony Bourdain - his book “Kitchen Confidential” changed my life, the way I see other chefs and the way I work in kitchens. He's such an inspiration and I've always tried to emulate him since reading it. It was a great tragedy when he passed away and a huge loss to the catering world.

7. What are your future plans in Gastronomy?

To be completely honest, I don’t yet know what I’m going to do after the upcoming winter as the Swiss Cook chef in Switzerland. I know I want to keep cooking with the freshest and finest ingredients and cooking good clean food. I might move to the USA to gain experience there, I might go to Thailand to learn some more Asian cooking styles, I may try and become a private chef and start my own company. The world is mine to conquer!

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8. Could you share the recipe of one of our clients’ favourite Swiss Cook dishes?

Most of the recipes exist only in my head, but I’m trying to put them down on paper and put together a book - watch this space. Just for you, here's a recipe for chickpea dahl that I cooked in Switzerland last winter and the client liked it so much they asked me for the recipe. I hope you love it!

Chickpea Dahl  
 
This is a great vegetarian option for your friends and family and a very versatile dish. I have served with pickled daikon and a poached egg before, which was delightful, but it's also great as a side dish, or as a starter served with some pita bread. Food like chickpeas and lentils don’t really get used much in the UK, which is a pity since there is so much you can do with them. 

400g dried chickpeas
1 medium red onion  
50g ginger peeled
1 bulb garlic peeled
10g coriander stalks
2 tbsp smoked paprika
1tbsp ground fenugreek  
1 tbsp turmeric
2tbsp muscovado sugar
20ml Japanese rice wine vinegar
400ml coconut milk
20g coriander leaves
 
Start by rinsing your chickpeas in warm water to release the starch from them. When thoroughly rinsed, place in a saucepan and cover with cold water, bring them to the boil and drain them off, put them back in the pan, cover with water and cook until al dente. Drain one more time through a sieve and leave to drain. 
 
Whilst doing this you can start preparing the base for the Dahl. Take the onion, ginger, garlic and coriander stalks and put into a food processor and blitz until fairly smooth. If you do not have a food processor you can finely dice all the veggies and get the same result. A food processor is just quicker.  
 
Place a large wide saucepan on a high heat and add some olive oil to the pan. Add your blitzed veggies to the pan and turn it to a medium heat. Cook the veggies out until the liquid starts to evaporate and it starts to stick to the pan, add the ground spices to the pan a cook for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, rice wine vinegar and sugar, stir thoroughly and bring to a boil and simmer for roughly 20 minutes until it starts to thicken. Time to take a little break. 
 
When finished take out of the pan and cool. Chiffonade (cut finely into long thin strips) the coriander and add to the Dahl. Season and mix. Give it a taste and it’s good to go. 
 
Serve hot or cold, with anything you like  

To find out more about our Swiss Cook service, contact our travel consultants on 0203 651 1965 or click here.