It’s been a busy few years for Garret Keown, he won Chaîne des Rôtisseurs young chef of the year 2011, was a finalist at the San Pellegrino 2015 young chef of the year awards and in 2016 joined the team as head chef at the Tate’s iconic Rex Whistler restaurant. Here, we caught up with him to find out more about his cooking inspirations, top ingredients and the many different hats a head chef wears.
What inspired you to start cooking?
My mother played a key role in inspiring me to take up cooking. She always grew her own fruit and vegetables and I have very fond memories of her cooking with these fresh ingredients when we were young.
Aside from your mum, what else gave you a love of food?
Fishing. I fish a lot, it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing ever since I was a child. I grew up in Whitstable, a place famed for its oysters and fish and I think having the opportunity to do this from a young age, along with my mother’s cooking gave me an understanding of how important it is to use quality ingredients. It also helped to teach me how the use of different ingredients can change and develop flavours.
Do you have a signature dish?
I’d probably have to say no, mainly because I’m not really a fan of using recipes. When I cook, I tend to do so based on instinct rather than following an exact recipe so even if I did have a signature dish, no two plates would ever be the same!
How about a favourite dish you like to cook for yourself then?
Probably a curry. I really enjoy the flavours and spices of Indian cooking and will cook a curry at least once a week.
Which three ingredients do you always have in your kitchen?
Hot sauce, curry powder, garlic.
Where are your favourite places to eat, either home or away?
If I’m in London, then I enjoy trying out local food markets and street stalls. If we’re talking ultimate foodie destination, it would be Chicago.
What does an average day at Rex Whistler look like?
7am-12:pm: In the morning, I get in early and make sure everyone knows what they are doing in terms of prep in the kitchen. I brief the team about any special tables we have in that day and check that the kitchen is all set for service. We have more than one kitchen at Tate and it’s important to make sure that everyone is on track. In between I answer emails, check orders and sign off relevant paperwork.
12pm – 4pm: Our service starts at 12 and I will usually be running the pass. This means that I’m checking every plate that leaves the kitchen to ensure it meets our high standards as well as making sure that service is running smoothly and effectively. Service ends as 3pm, I’ll spend the next couple of hours checking my chef’s orders and making sure that we place orders for any ingredients needed for the next day.
4pm – 12am: I usually use this time to finish up orders, double check that everything in the kitchen has been properly cleaned and check in on paperwork. Then unless we have a private dinner it is home time!
Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs?
I think the best advice I can give is to work hard, don’t give up, always ask questions and most importantly taste your food!
Photo credit to Tate Catering/James Munson