As part of our Top Chef Interviews series we’ve had the privilege of interviewing Dave Critchley. Executive Chef of Lu Ban Restaurant in Liverpool England.
You can follow him on Twitter here.
Let’s see what he’s got to tell us…
When and from whom did you learn about cooking? Do you have any early memories of something you enjoyed cooking?
As a child i would watch and learn from my mother, who although didn’t enjoy cooking always made sure there was food on the table for us all. Cooking wasn’t my passion until later in my life however when I started my first job. I remember making cakes and biscuits etc. For competitions and bake sales etc but never had a passion for baking… Still don’t now! It would be the Sunday roast that really got me buzzing! That huge joint of meat and all the different trimmings.. Roasties, Yorkshire puddings, crackling, meaty gravy even the veg. Id honestly be picking at the leftovers for hours after the meal had finished… Hated the washing up though!
Where did it all begin? What was your first job in a professional kitchen and how do you think this helped get you where you are today?
My first job was aged 15 at the local pub,. It was a busy branded carvery, and I wanted to earn money! I would be a kitchen porter at weekends. It was mental, that first week opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed! I certainly had to grow up and toughen up quickly in this environment, and work really hard to fit in and make an impression on my peers. This certainly set me up for the next few years. I fell in love with the kitchen, the passion, the buzz of adrenaline, the camaraderie and the lifestyle and prepared me for a tough whirlwind ride in the industry.
What is one of your favourite ingredients to use in your dishes and why?
This isnt a fair question so so many ingredients to choose from.. From The humble onion that begins almost everything across all cuisines to some of the most amazing fresh seafood in Britain… . I love using it all! But I suppose id have to choose garlic! I love its flavour, the impact it has on really simple recipes and also the health benefits it brings! My wife and i use a lot cooking at home, and ill always add a clove or two in recipes i’m developing if i feel its needed… I’m sure its down to my parents hating it and it never being present in my mother’s cooking! Sorry mum!
What is your favourite dish to cook? Do you have a favourite that you like to eat yourself?
Ha ha another tough question, there’s so many dishes that I could choose here, recently i’ve learnt and developed some amazing recipes from the Master Chefs in China which are just insanely good and on the flip side of that i’m involved with Global Scouse Day and have researched Liverpools famous stew for years… However I still think the magic of a perfectly executed Sunday roast dinner can never be rivalled and takes serious skills to get every element absolutely perfect… This leads me nicely into the next question…
What regional dish stands out to you and should represent your country? What do you think makes dishes in your region unique from others?
Locally reared Roast Lamb or Beef Dinner with locally grown seasonal British vegetables and potatoes, handmade traditional tracklements and condiments has to represent the country.. Is there anything else that comes close?
As for regional cuisine, Liverpool’s history has had a huge impact on this, Scouse obviously comes to mind… A traditional sailors stew born from the ports this was and still is a staple for local families, a cheap and hearty meal to feed the whole family, each family fiercely proud of their own slight variation. Everyones mum / nan makes the best!
The food of Liverpool is incredibly diverse due to the many cultures that have settled here too , hugely influenced by the Irish and Welsh, Liverpool also has the oldest black community in the UK and also the oldest Chinese community in Europe. These influences are what stands Liverpool apart from anywhere else I know. The food scene here is incredible with some really cool independent restaurants, cafes and bars.
Have you ever cooked for any celebrities or famous faces?
Yes but I don’t cook and tell! I have had the privilege to cook for a whole host of celebrities, top actors, music stars, sports personalities and still do to this day. Whilst working in some of the top hotels and restaurants in the North West there would be an A lister pretty much every week. I think it’s important to remember that every guest who walks through our doors is considered a VIP and that we treat them just the same as our celebrity guests too.
Do you have any funny or embarrassing kitchen stories to tell?
I have many many funny and embarrassing stories to tell especially from the early years of working in kitchens Hopefully enough to write a book about at some point in the future. Not sure how many of these stories are suitable or printable or even how many I’d want my parents to see but its a good job the industry has moved on and progressed as much as it has now… If anyone ever meets me and asks me im sure ill be able to tell you one!
Is there a celebrity chef who inspires you or has inspired you from the beginning of your career? Why does this person inspire you so much?
To be honest ive never been much of a celebrity chef fan boy, Ive always just tried to do my job without looking around at what anyone else is doing. You dont get a great deal of time for watching TV or cooking shows etc.. Of course Ive had the cook books over the years (and now my collection is pretty big) and you have to appreciate how successful certain chefs have been and what they’ve achieved.. But for me being a chef is my job it’s what I do, my passion is for the ingredients and the dishes and I like to focus on what my team and I can achieve and our guests.
Do you have any final advice for someone just starting to cook?
My advice… This industry is just incredible, with hard work and passion you can achieve anything you want to. Ive been offered roles all over the world UAE, USA, Dubai, Australia and have been lucky to travel as far as Tianjin in China with my current role. Keep learning, every single person knows something you don’t, keep pushing yourself to be better, keep creating, keep thinking and keep practicing. This life isn’t for everyone, but if you put a lot in you will get a huge amount back out from it.