This week, Dan Doherty, executive chef at Duck and Waffle, talks us through his day. Not only is his famous restaurant open 24 hours, but he has recently released his first cookbook and judged the San Pellegrino Young Chef Semi Finals. “Not many people have the luxury to do what they love,” he says. “I am one of the lucky ones… As a chef, I have the opportunity to be inventive and create truly memorable experiences that resonate with people.”
6am – Wake up and check work email, praying that there were no issues at the restaurant overnight. Some chefs never miss a service, but with a 24 hour restaurant like Duck & Waffle that’s impossible for us. Next is coffee, and lots of it, prior to a quick 10k run or a trip to the gym. Breakfast follows, usually on the DLR.
9am – Arrive at work, entering from the basement so I can check in on the production kitchen where all the real graft is done. Next, I’m on the lift to the 40th floor and straight into a buzzing kitchen. By this time, we’ll have already done over 100 covers with the same volume to come. The pass is filling up nicely with dockets so the breakfast chefs have their hands full. The lunch and dinner team will be moving from the basement to 40th floor to set up – in this industry it’s all about preparation.
10am – Briefing time. Every head of department comes together for a meeting, including events, reservations, directors and so forth to speak about the day ahead, parties, financial updates, etc.
10:30am– This is my window of opportunity for any meetings, usually regarding interviews or planning events such as Meatopia. Last year saw the release of our first cookbook, Duck & Waffle: Recipes and Stories, so there was a lot of promotion to do. Life is never boring in this career.
11am – Breakfast finishes and the real hard work begins. Turning the kitchen around for lunch at 11:30am is a big push, but one that is pretty seamless at this point. Now that the kitchen is sparkling and organised, we are ready to go!
11:30am-3pm – Lunch time, where we feed another 200-odd people, and the ticket machines are rarely silent. The menus are ever-changing, but some of my favourite dishes at the moment are the Braised Cuttlefish with pearl barley & fennel, Roasted Octopus with chorizo, lemon & capers and the Whole Roast Chicken with potato, wild mushroom & truffle ragout.
3pm – The evening team arrives and starts their set up, while the lunch guys finish the rush (it rarely gets quiet, just slows down a little). They’ll be up and down between the kitchens, restocking for a busy night.
3:30pm – This is my second opportunity to have any meetings, or usually a call with the big boss in New York to fill him in on any new ideas or future opportunities. At the moment, I’m involved in several exciting projects, including the S. Pellegrino Young Chef Competition, where I’ll be one of four judges whittling down the semi-finalists to see who makes it to the finals in Milan.
4:30pm – I always forget to eat, so it’s around now that I usually grab something that I really shouldn’t…chocolate being the usual suspect. Plus, another dose of caffeine.
5pm – The lunch team says their goodbyes, while the dinner team is set and ready to go. We have about 9 chefs on at any given time. The kitchen is sparkling, the specials have been finalised and the Front of House team has been briefed.
6pm-10pm – Relentless service with around 300 people – hopefully all of whom are having a great time. At 10pm, the night chefs arrive and pick up their prep lists, making their way to the basement to gather what they need for the overnight menu. We’re proud to be open 24/7, meaning that at 3am, you can chow down on Spicy Ox Cheek Donut with apricot jam or Foie Gras Crème Brûlée with butter roasted lobster.
11:30pm – Last ‘All Day Menu’ orders are in and the guys are cleaning, so my finish line is in sight. The late-night team is setting up and the evening guys are having their fridges checked, prep lists for the next day scrutinised, fridge temperatures recorded one last time, and then it’s time for me to go home.
12:30am – The time when one really shouldn’t be eating is the time that I’m most likely to grab some food. It’s bad, but sometimes it’s the best feeling to come home to a cling-filmed plate of leftovers from my wife – usually reheated pasta, in the pan not in the microwave. I actually prefer it this way, the pasta gets a slight crunch as does the cheese. I write the handover to my senior team for the next day then collapse into bed, ready to do it all again.
Dan Doherty’s first cookbook Duck & Waffle: Stories and Recipes is published by Mitchell Beazley and is available for £25 here. The S. Pellegrino Young Chef finals take place in June – more details here