As part of our Chef's Life series we caught up with our good friend Liam Watton. Liam is the head chef at the House of the Rising Sun in Shrewsbury, where he works as part of a team to produce high quality dishes with influences from across the world including Japan and East Asia. Below, Liam explains where his love for cooking stemmed from, the one kitchen gadget he couldn't live without and much more.
Professionally I have been a paid chef for three years now. Ever since I was 20 I would travel around Europe visiting the most creative and innovative kitchens in the world. I’d get home and research the dishes, the methods and the techniques used to produce them and then try to recreate them! At the age of 30 I decided life was not all about money and took the plunge into professional kitchens.
I would describe my style as that of a chameleon – I will look to adapt my food to what my customer wants. I love to try out new things and always try new flavours and techniques. If I haven’t learned something new each day I see it as a wasted day. I am influenced by my customers – as a young chef I focused on my desires and what I wanted to achieve for me, but I soon learned that no one is more valuable to a restaurant than its customers.
I do not have a signature dish, however, in the coming years I hope I can give you a different answer! Right now I can honestly say I really love cooking scallops – the pleasure you get from getting that golden brown crust with a soft juicy centre is hard to beat. In the restaurant we do a short marinate in a spiced miso butter and serve them with confit pork belly, variations of onion and passion fruit – it’s a winner!
Hand dived scallop, confit pork belly, rhubarb kimchi, apple and flavours of the sea
A big hearty tartiflette – reminds me of the mountains. That or a nice spicy pad-thai.
One big thing I’ve noticed is that chefs see items such as soy as a sauce rather than a seasoning – I always tell people “this is your new salt”. Also watching customers eat sushi with a huge amount of wasabi and pickled ginger on top of their fish is a bit of a faux-pas as you will never taste the delicate taste of the core ingredient.
Seriously – Japanese food as a whole. In Shropshire where I work and live I’d say we are about five years behind the major cities with food trends etc. A few years ago we put ramen and Katsu chicken on our menu and people just didn’t know what it was so in turn wouldn’t buy it. About three months ago I noticed these items popping up in the supermarkets and that for me was a sign that customers were now ready for it. We put these two dishes back on the menu and they are some of our biggest sellers.
Soy sauce, White miso, Yuzu, Tonkotsu and Togarashi.
CaptureVeal oyster blade, marrow, tendons and avocado
IF YOU COULD COOK FOR ANYONE IN THE WORLD, ALIVE OR DEAD, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU MAKE THEM?
Tough one – it would have to be Joan Roca, the head chef of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona. I have eaten his food and it was absolutely mind blowing. I’d like to cook him a version of one of the dishes I ate at his restaurant which I reworked to have more relevance to our Asian influenced menu. The dish used smoked eel, umeboshi plums and jasmine flower.
Strangely it would have to be a 30cm set of precision kitchen tongs – my old head chef introduced me to them. They have become like a third hand. Quite literally every chef who comes into my kitchen and uses them then can’t resist going to buy a set themselves.
I don’t really have a regular haunt, but recently, as I’m always looking for somewhere new, I’ve been over to The Wilderness in Birmingham a few times and I really like what the head chef Alex is doing there. He has some amazing ideas, but also the skill and care to actually execute it and last time I visited he made an absolutely banging dashi using wild British produce.
A modern take on a banoffee pie. Caramelised banana, toffee sauce, toffee crumb, pastry chantilly cream and salted chocolate ganache
Biggest trends for 2017? Well, Asian food will for sure be played around with - the flavours that come from the east are popping up on a lot of menus. Also, I think we will see a lot of small restaurants opening up from cultures across the board with the small plate/big plate style of food.