Where are they now? Dan Cameron

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Where are they now? Dan Cameron

12 years after completing the diploma, Dan Cameron is an established chef and restaurateur with evolving Modern European restaurant Cameron’s Kitchen to his name.

Name: Dan Cameron

Year graduated: 2003

Current job title: Chef and restaurateur at Cameron’s Kitchen and The Knife and Cork

How would you describe your year on the diploma at Leiths in 3 words?

Inspiring, insightful and compelling.

What were you doing/Where were you working before the diploma?

I’d been cooking for about three years and had worked at a number of good local restaurants and gastropubs.

What made you decide to start the diploma?

Having been working in the industry for a while I felt that I wanted to take my cooking to the next level. I wanted to improve on the skills
that I had learnt already with focus on making everything from scratch. I thoroughly enjoyed cooking and knew that if I wanted to do it
professionally I would want to be the best I could be and Leiths seemed the right way to do this.

What were the highlights of your year at Leiths?

I really enjoyed the cookery demonstrations from top chefs such as Michael Caine and Peter Gordon watching these people at the top of their game was inspiring and motivational. I also really enjoyed learning about wine – I had limited knowledge beforehand and only knew what I liked and drank myself. Leith’s gave me a great foundation in wine knowledge and given this interest I have since gone on to open my own wine merchant and bar.

What was your first job or work experience following the diploma?

I’d continued working weekends at the gastropub that I worked at prior to my diploma and upon completion I continued there for a few
months, waiting for the right opportunity to come up. I opted to join Gordon Ramsey holdings and worked as a senior Chef de Partie under JasonAtherton at Maze where I was involved in the opening. I went on to work at Mayfair’s Berkeley Square Restaurant for a number of years and left in 2006, having been promoted to Sous Chef. I felt ready, having 7 years of professional cooking experience at some top restaurants and of course, the groundings from the diploma, to go out on my own. When the opportunity arose to take over a canal side pub near Milton Keynes I jumped at the chance. This was a completely new experience for me and brought with it a whole new array of challenges. Working at some of London’s top restaurants and studying the diploma you are surrounded by passionate and dedicated chefs so moving from this to a rural pub in Northamptonshire serving predominantly frozen food from disinterested staff was hard work! It took a lot but I eventually managed to turn the pub into what I had envisaged and was pleased to see my hard work paying off when we were listed in The Telegraph’s Top 10 Waterside Pubs feature. In 2008 I was approached to take part in the first series of MasterChef: The Professionals and having impressed at Gidleigh Park made it all the way to the finals.

Where are you working now?

Off the back of the success of Masterchef I opened Cameron’s restaurant in a small dining room at the back of the pub. Cameron’s was a great success and quickly outgrew the small room in which it operated. Iwas lucky enough to find a great venue just a few miles down the road in the market town of Stony Stratford – three months after agreeing we were serving customers at our new location. Since opening Cameron’s Brasserie we have proved very successful and offer interesting, fresh food in an area that is dominated by high street chain restaurants. One of my proudest moments has been being voted The Foodie Guide’s Best Restaurant in Buckinghamshire in 2013. Unfortunately serious fire damage has meant that I’ve had to close Cameron’s for the last 9 months. Luckily I was able to keep vital members of staff employed in my latest venture – Stony Wines (soon to be re-named The Knife and Cork) and we’re looking to reopen as Cameron’s Kitchen next week striving to be even better than before.

How has the diploma helped you in your current role?

I wouldn’t be in my current role had I not completed the diploma! Although running your own business brings about many different
challenges I often refer back to the knowledge I gained at Leiths, especially when it comes to wine. Now running my own wine merchant and bar I am often asked specific questions about wine and being able to think back to what I learned at Leiths helps a lot!

How often do you use the skills you learnt at Leiths?

Daily. I very often think back to techniques and recipes I learnt during my time there. My Leiths bible is still my most used cookbook and
is now looking extremely loved!

What are your long term career goals?

To continue to make Cameron’s Kitchen a success, to constantly evolve and push myself. One day I’d like to teach some cookery classes and hopefully help to inspire the next generation of chefs.

What are you cooking or eating for dinner tonight?

Things are so manic at the restaurant at the moment with opening just a week away I’ll be lucky if I get anything! If I have time I’ll make a quick veg stir fry to keep me going.

What key piece of advice would you offer to anyone thinking of studying at Leiths?

Make the most of it. You’ll get out what you put in, if you go with the right attitude and are prepared to work hard; the learning and
opportunities are endless.

What is your favourite restaurant to eat at?

I made the most of having some time off while the restaurant was being repaired and went to Copenhagen. I was blown away by the standard of food whilst there. Particularly at Kokkeriet and would have to say that this is my favourite restaurant that I have eaten at so far – it knocked the socks off other 2 star restaurants that I’ve been to and in my opinion is definitely worth that third star. Oliver and The Black Circus is also exceptional but less formal with a trendier vibe – somewhat similar to how Cameron’s Kitchen will be.

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