Five minutes with Niall Keating
Niall Keating, Executive Chef of The Dining Room at Whatley Manor in the Cotswolds, is one of the UK’s most promising young chefs, having earned the restaurant two Michelin stars.
Niall recently appeared on BBC Two’s Great British Menu (series 15) to represent the Central Region of the UK. The brief for the series was to celebrate ‘Britain’s Success in Children’s Literature’, and each chef was asked to invent a dish that reminded them of some of their favourite childhood stories.
Niall’s fish course “The witches of the Northern Lights” featured in the final banquet where Niall went on to be named “Champion of Champions’ winning the series overall. We caught up with the chef, to discover his food love and hates…
What’s your very first memory of food?
Banana sandwiches on white bread, cut into quarters, with salted butter (when I was about three years old).
What’s the first recipe you properly learned to cook?
Ratatouille – with a mix of Mediterranean vegetables. I actually cooked it in the microwave!
What’s the one recipe that you can’t live without?
Soy dipping sauce (mix of soy, mirin and togarashi). It’s perfect for dipping dumplings into.
Which food do you absolutely hate?
There are three items on my list – beetroot, aubergine and tomato, especially when sliced in a sandwich.
What’s the one ingredient that you’d take to a desert island with you?
One whole cow!
What’s the meal you’d miss the most whilst there?
You can have a one-off dinner party on your desert island… who would you invite and why?
Robin Williams (RIP), Bill Gates, Michael Jordan and Halle Berry.
Which cookbook would you take with you to the island?
Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide, by Thomas Keller.
Which meal did you cook the most at home throughout lockdown?
I barbecued non-stop during lockdown.
And… rather importantly, what did you binge-watch on TV during lockdown?
Tiger King on Netflix.
Where’s the first place you ate once restaurants re-opened?
The Holford Arms, in Knockdown, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire.
We loved watching you on this year’s Great British Menu. What’s your most memorable moment from the show?
Bursting the vessie in the poulet en vessie dish! Also, I was so proud having my parents attend the final banquet, and especially when I won the ‘Champion of Champions’ on that series.
Your tasting menus at The Dining Room (Whatley Manor) are full of incredible surprises. Tell us some more about where you find inspiration for your dishes?
I always have a mental memory bank of ingredients and dishes that I want to incorporate into the menu at some point….waiting to be used are black moss and goji berries, among others!
You’ve recently teamed up with Salcombe Distilling Company to create your very own gin (not many people can say that)! Tell us more…
It was a fascinating creative challenge to develop new elements to go into Salcombe’s gin. I was curious about the production process for ‘Restless’, and how I could introduce some intriguing ingredients and flavours – such my own blood orange kombucha. I think the result is quite delicious, smooth and a little exotic with some Asian notes. We’re very proud to be offering it at Whatley Manor, and guests are loving it.