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A WORD WITH: The Head Chef

Jun Tanaka, Executive Head Chef at the Renaissance London Chancery Court Hotel's Pearl Restaurant & Bar, answers our questions

Where did you train and with whom?
Prior to Pearl, I spent 10 years working with some of London’s best chefs in seven top Michelin star restaurants, learning the art of fine French cuisine. I worked and trained at Le Gavroche, Chez Nico, The Capital, The Square and Les Saveurs. I also worked under Marco Pierre White at both The Restaurant Marco Pierre White and The Oak Room.

What's your menu style at Pearl?
Modern French cuisine with a seasonally changing menu, to incorporate the best produce and ingredients.

Do you change all of the menu at once, or weave in a few new dishes at a time?
I change a few dishes at a time to ensure that I’m always using the best and most seasonal produce throughout the year.

Where do the new ideas come from?
Mainly from the produce - when it is in season and when it's at its best. Visiting restaurants around the world also stimulates new ideas.

How often do you yourself go the the markets?
I regularly visit food markets. I especially like Borough Market for the freshness and quality of its produce. For the freshest fish, I go to Applebees in Borough Market. There is also a new Foodlovers Market on Rupert Street which is worth checking out.

What's your personal favourite cuisine to cook - and to eat?
I love to cook the cuisine I cook at Pearl. My favourite to eat is Japanese, as it is light - and this is the style of food I was brought up with at home. I also enjoy Italian cuisine.

What's it really like in the kitchen of a busy and successful restaurant like yours? And how do you and your team cope with the pressure?
The most important aspect is the way I run my kitchen. It’s a positive place to work and I don’t create any unnecessary stress. I also find that if you hire the right staff, then it really cuts down everyone’s stress levels. We have a team of 15 in the kitchen - serving up to 80 covers at lunch and dinner. Before any chef starts work with me, I always make a point of telling them three things: no arguing, respect each other, and everyone starts and leaves together. This sets the tone of the kitchen.

Can you give HTWN members a seasonal tip - maybe one for their Christmas dinner?
For a moist turkey, soak it in brine for 24 hours.
You can find more of Jun's tips in the Secrets from the Hot Plate section of Pearl’s website Signed copies of his cookbook - SIMPLE TO SENSATIONAL - can be purchased at Pearl Restaurant & Bar reception. It's also available (unsigned) from Amazon.

Wouldn’t you rather dine somewhere really special?

If you cook, read on - as Jun also shares with us these three recipes from his cookbook: Chunky Fish Soup, Lamb Casserole with Onions and New Potatoes, and Safrron Poached Pears with Chocolate Mousse. Perfect for impressing your next dinner-party guests perhaps?

Serves 4

100g live mussels
100ml light olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
¼ fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato purée
2 star anise
pinch of saffron threads
pinch of cayenne pepper
100ml white wine
50ml Pernod
3 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
500ml fish stock
500g fish - such as monkfish, cod, bream or mullet -cut into chunks
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
garlic mayonnaise
freshly grated Gruyère cheese
crusty bread

Wash the mussels in cold water, scrubbing the shells. Pull away the fibrous beards and rinse thoroughly to remove any sand. Discard any broken ones.

Heat half the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, fennel and carrot and gently cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomato purée, star anise, saffron and cayenne pepper and cook for 2–3 minutes. Add the white wine and Pernod, bring to the boil and let it reduce for 2–3 minutes. Finally add the chopped tomatoes and fish stock. Bring to the boil and gently simmer for 20 minutes.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in a frying pan. Season the chunks of fish and cook for 2 minutes until caramelised. Add to the soup along with the mussels. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the mussels open (discard any that stay closed).

Serve in bowls with a dollop of garlic mayonnaise in each and scattered with grated Gruyère cheese. Provide crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Jun says: Casseroles always taste better the day after they’re cooked. It gives the ingredients time to fully release and combine all the flavours. However, if you don’t have time, this casserole is still delicious made on the day.

Serves 4

50 ml vegetable oil
800 g lamb neck fillets cut into 4 cm pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 button onions, peeled
4 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 tablespoon tomato purée
300 ml white wine
300 ml Madeira
12 new potatoes, peeled and left whole
4 whole garlic cloves
3 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
a sprig of fresh thyme
a sprig of fresh rosemary
800 ml lamb stock
1/2 bunch fresh mint, leaves chopped

1 Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180ºC.

2 Heat half the vegetable oil in a frying pan. Season the lamb pieces and fry for 5 minutes until caramelised all over.

3 While the lamb is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a separate ovenproof casserole dish. Fry the button onions and carrots for 3–4 minutes until browned. Add the tomato purée and cook for a further 2 minutes.

4 Drain the lamb in a colander. Pour the white wine and Madeira into the frying pan, bring to the boil and scrape off the sediment from the bottom of the pan. Add to the vegetables in the casserole dish.

5 Add the lamb, potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and stock to the casserole. The liquid should just cover the meat (add extra stock if it doesn’t). Bring to the boil and place a circular piece of baking parchment over the lamb and vegetables. Cover with a lid and cook for 1½–2 hours or until the lamb is tender. Remove the herb sprigs and season to taste.

6 To serve, spoon in to large bowls and scatter over the chopped mint leaves.

TIP When choosing cuts of meat for a casserole, buy something with a little fat, as this will prevent the meat from becoming too dry.

Jun says: Saffron and pears seems a little strange, but trust me - it works! You only need a pinch of saffron and the pears will take on the vivid yellow colour. Absolutely stunning!

Serves 4

For the poached pears:
250 g caster sugar
500 ml Sauternes
250 g water
2 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of saffron threads
finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
4 medium ripe pears (Conference are best)

For the chocolate sauce:
150 ml water
150 g caster sugar
50 g cocoa powder

For the chocolate mousse:
200 g dark chocolate, finally chopped
80 ml milk
1 medium free-range egg yolk
4 medium free-range egg whites
20 g caster sugar

1 Place the sugar, Sauternes, water, cinnamon sticks, lemon zest, saffron and lemon juice in a medium pan. Peel the pears and, preferably using a melon-baller, fully scoop out the core of each pear. Place the pears in the pan with the poaching liquid and cover with a circular sheet of baking paper. Place a medium sized plate on top of the paper to prevent the pears from floating. Place on the heat, bring to a simmer and cook for 4–5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Place in the fridge until needed.

2 For the chocolate sauce. pour the water and sugar into a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and add the cocoa powder, continuously whisking for 4–5 minutes. Pour the liquid through a sieve into a bowl and store in the fridge.

3 For the chocolate mousse, place the chocolate into a large bowl. Pour the milk in to a pan and bring to the boil. Whisk the boiling milk into the chocolate and add the egg yolk. Using an electric mixer, whisk together the egg whites and sugar in a bowl to form a stiff meringue. Take half the meringue and, using a spatula, fold it into the chocolate. Repeat with the other half. Pour the mousse into a container and place into a fridge for 2 hours to set.

4 To serve, remove the pears from the juice and sit them on kitchen towel to remove any excess liquid. Dip a spoon into the chocolate sauce and, holding a plate with one hand, flick the sauce on to the plate (do this over a sink). Place a pear on the middle of the plate. Take an ice cream scoop (use a spoon if you don’t have an ice cream scoop) and dip it into hot water, then use it to make a ball of chocolate mousse. Place this next to the pear and garnish with a mint tip.

TIP I used dark chocolate for the mousse, but if you prefer something a little less rich simply replace the dark chocolate with milk chocolate.

Wouldn’t you rather cook something really special?

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