Meet The Chef: Darryl Quested, head chef at herd., Canterbury
What led you to become a chef, and where did you train?
My journey into the hospitality industry started when I was 15. I grew up on the Isle of Sheppey and started working in various local pubs in front of house roles, before moving to the Romney Marsh in my early 20s. After working as supervisor at Hythe Bay restaurant, I moved to Rocksalt in 2010 where I started as a waiter and tried my hand at mixology working behind the bar in the evenings. It was at this point that I discovered my passion for working with great ingredients.
After finishing there, I jumped at the chance to work in the kitchen at The Ship Hotel in my first cheffing role. I spent the next 18 months working incredibly hard, studying the tricks of the trade, touching up on my cookery skills and learning the dynamics of the kitchen; it was from that moment on, that I knew the kitchen was the place for me. With the help of my good friend Greg who now runs Bao Baron in Folkestone, I landed my first permanent kitchen role at Samphire in Whitstable and remained there for two and a half years before being offered the junior sous role at The Dog at Wingham. At the end of 2019, I had a call from Alastair, head chef at Hide and Fox in Saltwood. He was looking for a second chef and asked me to join the team, and I was absolutely thrilled. I was completely blown away by the food and his attention to detail and although challenging at times, it was that journey that really taught me about myself as a chef. I left there in 2021, briefly joining the Kings Head in Wye as head chef, before being contacted by Adam in May 2022 who told me about his new restaurant venture, herd. and I was immediately captivated by the vision. I’ve always been a huge fan of Canterbury, it’s such an iconic city, but at the same time a tough nut to crack, and I was definitely up for the challenge.
What’s the concept behind herd.’s menu?
The herd. concept is based around sharing and grazing, so diners are invited to taste a little bit of everything. They can order a steak each, or two or three different dishes from the menu; it’s designed to encourage people to explore new things, discover new flavours. It’s a social dining experience, but with a refined difference.
Our dishes champion the finest quality ingredients. While a lot of what we use is sourced locally, a lot of time, effort and research has gone into sourcing the best ingredients worldwide, for example our Prussian steak features on the menu because it was recently voted the best steak in the world for the third year running, and the Irish chocolate-fed Wagyu because it’s by far the best cut of meat I have ever eaten – the taste is sensational and it’s incredibly tender. Our other meat suppliers include Tom Hixson of Smithfield, London, who supply many award-winning restaurants across the country, as well as our local suppliers Salvatori in West Canterbury, whose meat is the best around, and Boat House Fisheries where all our fantastic fish comes from. We will always support local wherever we can.
Tell us about your cooking inspirations? How do you curate a menu?
I would say my cooking style encapsulates a mix of modern British cuisine with notes of north Africa. I can’t get enough of Egyptian and Moroccan flavours and use a lot of harissa and ras el hanout in my cooking. I want to incorporate flavours that you wouldn’t typically find on a UK menu and surprise people in a good way. As well as those, I am very fond of Japanese cuisine. I love the power of miso and have always wanted to play around with Nordic styles; the stripped back but technical approach. Perhaps that is something for tasting nights in the future.
In terms of starting a dish, it varies depending on how I am feeling at the time. Experimenting is definitely key when it comes to getting it right; sometimes I’ll start with a protein and then create a sauce or side, and other times I think, ‘oh that would work better with the pork’ and so on. It’s all about working as a team, and I am always encouraging the team at herd. to bring new ideas to the table.
What’s your signature/favourite dish and why?
We are a steak restaurant, so steak is our signature ingredient, but we are also so much more than that and the concept is very much accessible to everyone. With that in mind, I have been working on a really exciting vegetarian dish. The star ingredient is Lion’s Mane mushrooms which are sourced from a local grower; they come served with a caramelised cauliflower puree (because cauli is the king of ingredients) miso, pomegranate and a Japanese furikake; a seasoning that is made in-house.
I also love our new chipotle-cured pork secreto dish. Secreto is the cut taken from under the shoulder of the pig, in butchery it’s regarded as the ‘secret’ cut because it’s so good and everyone wants to keep it. This comes served with fried corn ribs and a harissa and lime butter.
I have to give a shout out to our Josper grill; the star of the show. The Josper is run on wood and charcoal which is (again) sourced locally, and reaches temperatures of 500 degrees, it’s perfect for achieving BBQ smokey flavours as it seals the meat and you get a beautiful crust. Even our sticky toffee pudding gets a blast in the grill, which is what gives it that delicious smokiness.
What do you envisage for the next few years?
In comparison to our new menu, our first menu was purposefully quite reserved. We are constantly looking to experiment with new ingredients and flavours. We have a fantastic team, and of course it would be amazing for them to be recognised for their hard work and determination; to achieve an award would be the dream. For me it’s all about a love for cooking, sharing my passion with the team and our guests, and more importantly having fun. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for herd. It’s a pretty special place.
And lastly, what’s your guilty pleasure?
I love a peanut butter sarnie, but my absolute guilty pleasure is a Bernard Matthew’s Chicken Kiev. When you’ve worked a long shift and you need something quick and easy they hit the spot. Also, they have to be swimming in vinegar. Don’t judge me, I’ve had them since I was a kid! I’m also a huge fan of BrewDog; I love their beer and can’t wait for them to open up in Canterbury.
Darryl’s Citrus Cured Mackerel with Fennel Escabeche and Split Buttermilk Sauce
There’s a lot of theatre on this plate, with well balanced acidity and richness. It’s a crowd pleaser and one of my, and herd.’s, favourite signature dishes.
For the chermoula oil
50g coriander, roughly chopped
20g parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
10g garlic, (about 2 medium cloves)
35g preserved lemon, halved and pips removed (about 1 medium lemon)
150ml rapeseed oil
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1 pinch cayenne pepper
For the fennel escabeche
1 fennel bulb , sliced thin
1 shallot, sliced thin
5g fennel seeds
200g vegetable oil
200g white wine vinegar
200g white wine
20g soy sauce
Zest of 2 oranges
For the cured mackerel
4 mackerel fillets
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 2 limes
For the buttermilk sauce
50g double cream
To make the chermoula oil
- Place all of the ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth.
- Pour into a container and cover in the fridge for at least 2 hours to allow the flavours to marry, before straining through a cloth (clean j-cloth or tea towel will work at home).
For the fennel escabeche
- Add oil to a cold pan and place on the heat, then add the shallots and season with a pinch of salt.
- Gently fry the fennel seeds, and add the sliced fennel coating in the warm oil.
- Add the sugar until it is completely dissolved, next pour in the vinegar and bring to the boil, finally add in the white wine and soy sauce, and bring back to the boil before removing from the heat and adding the orange zest.
- Once cooled, store in a clean airtight container in the fridge. Best left overnight for maximum flavour, but can be eaten straight away.
For the cured mackerel
- Remove the skin membrane from the mackerel fillets using a good clean pair of tweezers.
- Stir all curing ingredients together until well mixed, then sprinkle a layer on the bottom of a tub and lay the mackerel flesh side down on the cure, cover completely with the rest of the cure.
- Leave to cure for 2 hours, before washing the fish gently under cold water. Let the fish dry as thoroughly as possible.
For the buttermilk sauce
- Whisk the buttermilk and cream together and season with salt to your own personal taste. Set aside in a jug.
To complete the dish
- Place a good pile of the fennel in the bottom of a bowl.
- Take your mackerel fillets and place them on an oven tray, gently wipe a small amount of oil on the skin before blowtorching until crisp, if you do not have a blow torch a minute or so under a hot grill will work well too.
- Sit the mackerel on top of the fennel.
- Pour around 20ml of the herby chermoula oil into your buttermilk sauce and swirl around gently, you don’t want it to mix together as this will split the sauce.
- Pour the bright green oil round the edge of your bowl to wow your guests and finish with white sauce.