Friday 4 October 2019 1:24 pm

Weekly Grill: Executive chef of Bōkan Restaurant in Canary Wharf Guillaume Gillan on how to improve your knife skills

Who are you and what do you do?  

My name is Guillaume Gillan, executive chef of Bōkan Restaurant in Canary Wharf.

Tell us about your new menu  

We’ve just launched our new three course Early Sunset Dockyard menu. It’s seasonally led so changes every couple weeks, and is served from 6pm to 7.30pm, giving guests front row seats to the London sunset (weather depending!) Bōkan Restaurant is located on the 37th floor, so I challenge you to find a better spot to take in the skyline. 

What food makes you happy and why? 

I adore Mediterranean food. I’m originally from Nice so I suppose it’s what I grew up with. Since training as a chef, I’ve realised that the thing I love about the cuisine from that part of the world is the way it celebrates ingredients when they are in season at their best, whether that’s a perfectly ripe tomato, or the simple cooking of the freshest catch. That’s the food that tastes best, whatever the cuisine. 

You come home drunk and hungry – what do you cook? 

Depending on how drunk and how hungry I am… I’ll either whip up a carbonara, or just gorge on slices of salami.

What’s the strangest encounter you’ve had in your restaurant?  

I once had a diner come in who, when asked if they had any allergies we should know about, proceeded to list out dairy, gluten and every vegetable under the sun. That was an interesting one. 

Tell us about the best meal you ever had

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to eat at L’Enclume, Simon Rogan’s incredible restaurant in Cumbria. Everything that we ate and drank was truly outstanding. I drew the short straw and was the designated driver for the day, so discovered that their tea selection is just as expansive as their wines! I was so wowed by the restaurant that I ended up going back to do a stage in the kitchen.

What’s your earliest food memory?  

As a child I used to love going to the butcher with my grandma. I remember it so clearly – picking out the cuts, and then going home for the best steak lunch ever. 

What do most people get wrong when cooking?

I think often the basics can be overlooked. For example, I notice that a lot of amateur cooks (and even trainee chefs) could improve their knife skills – many people will go to chop vegetables with the back of the knife (which is usually less sharp). It’s learning little tips like that, as opposed to the fancy stuff, that can vastly improve your cooking. 

What’s your favourite dish? 

It’s definitely beef-based. The final dish would be a toss-up between filet tartare and a beautiful piece of beef, simply cooked on the grill, to be eaten with béarnaise sauce.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?  

Dover sole liver. I’m all for using as much of the fish as possible, but can’t stand these.

What’s the best thing about the London food scene?

The community and camaraderie between chefs and restaurants. This industry can be a tough one, but I think the challenges facing restaurants have helped to foster a community focused on growth and preservation. 

What should everyone have in their kitchen cupboard?  

A decent extra virgin olive oil. This ingredient is so versatile and comes in to play at the beginning and the end of so many dishes. 

You’re mayor for a day – what food law would you introduce?  

I would make cookery classes compulsory at secondary school level. Being able to cook – even at a basic level – is such a crucial life skill, and if it helps young talent to see being a chef as a possible career path, then that’s an added bonus. Alongside cookery classes, I’d integrate regular supplier visits into the programme to ensure that young cooks get to experience real farms and factories to get a full understanding of where our food comes from. I think that’s invaluable as both a chef and a consumer.