Chef Aidan on his passion for sustainability and permaculture in every aspect of his cooking
Tell us your foodie story. How did you get into cooking?
I first decided I wanted to be a chef when I was 8 years old. As a child I was incredibly non-conformist and actually quite disobedient, so my decision to become a chef was probably to rebel against my parents’ expectations of me going to university. When I was 14, my parents said I could pursue my dream as long as I had decent marks in school so that I’d have something to fall back on if cooking wasn’t for me after all. While I was still at school, I started at the Junior Chef’s Academy and enrolled at Westminster Kingsway College straight out of school. In 2007, I graduated with my Professional Chef Diploma and moved to Barcelona to begin my career. And the rest, as they say, is history…
What do you love about hosting private events?
I find the main difference between hosting public dinners and private events is the dynamic at the dining table. For social dining experiences, most of the guests don’t know each other before sitting down for dinner together, but with private events, it’s generally a group of friends or colleagues celebrating a special occasion so everyone is ready to jump right in from the get-go.
What is your favorite cuisine and why?
That’s a tough one! It’s a question I’m often asked, and I frequently find myself giving a different answer depending on how I’m feeling at the time. I could probably narrow it down to three cuisines. Growing up in Hackney I was exposed to a lot of Turkish and Caribbean culture, and therefore their respective cuisines were always something I was familiar with and would eat regularly during my childhood. These two cuisines are where I seek comfort, whereas Japanese food is where I seek challenge. The sheer precision as well as the respect for their produce are two things I’ve always admired about the Japanese approach to food, and some of my most memorable eating experiences have been the most simple — a sashimi of squid and fatty tuna belly with sea urchin and ponzu sauce or a nigiri of red prawn with the tiniest dab of freshly grated wasabi. Just thinking about it is making me hungry!
What feeling do you want people to take away after tasting your food?
I want my guests to know that the meal they’ve eaten is truly unique, because the produce on the menu simply can’t be found anywhere else. There’s no other culinary experience that offers an entire tasting menu exclusively sourced from within one London borough. Every day I source produce from Hackney and collect everything personally on my bike, which not only means I get to see and speak with the producers and purveyors but also helps to reduce the carbon footprint of everything that goes onto the guests’ plates. I also try to upcycle food as much as possible — for instance, I always save any bread left over after each evening and will dehydrate it to use as breadcrumbs. Rather than compromising by using mass-produced produce, I source and preserve absolutely everything I can while it’s at its peak, and can then use pickles, fermentations, dehydrated products, jams, jellies and other preserved items all year round.
I work extremely hard to source, cultivate or forage my ingredients — so I try to convey that sense of pride and appreciation to the guests throughout the evening with little anecdotes about the story of the produce and the people who grow it. I once had a guest say to me at the end of the meal: “Wow, so that’s what tomatoes are supposed to taste like”. That’s my all-time favorite comment and that’s the feeling I want my guests to leave with.
What makes your dining concept unique?
The truly unique concept of my supper clubs is that we source all of our produce from within the borough of Hackney! This means that everything plant-based on the menu will have been literally cultivated or foraged within a mile or two of where you’ll be eating it! Lots of the veg and herbs are grown in my own allotment too. “Innovative Sustainable Tasting Menu” is my flagship social dining experience, where guests can enjoy a intimate and immersive experience in the comfort of my Hackney apartment. My interactive style allows me to offer insightful details behind each dish as it’s presented explaining where things were grown or where they came from.