A chef that’s always striving for better, The Wordrobe meets with Dan Moon, The Gainsborough Bath Spa’s Head Chef to talk sustainable produce, eating with our eyes and kitchen inspirations
“You only get what you put in – if you put in half an effort, you’ll get half a result.”
This Devon-born chef started his first kitchen job at the tender age of 14, assisting with vegetable prep and thriving off the energy from a busy service.
After studying Food Preparation and Cooking at college, Dan went on to work for a number of top restaurants, with his relentless work ethic earning him a number of accolades – including three AA Rosettes and The Caterer’s coveted Acorn Award.
Now Head Chef of the eponymous Dan Moon at The Gainsborough Restaurant, Sophie Ritchie spoke with Dan to find out more about his artistic fine dining approach and culinary journey so far.
What inspired you to become a chef?
My inspiration came when I was 14, my first job was in a kitchen, working as a KP at weekends.
As time went on, I started to get more involved with the operational side by assisting with veg prep. It was from here that I knew the kitchen was the place I wanted to be, I loved the team vibe and the buzz that a busy service gave and as they say ‘the rest is history’.
Where did you train?
I studied Food Preparation and Cooking at Exeter College with a day release to St Olaves & Holme Chase where I had been working at weekends, it was a great to start the journey to becoming a qualified chef in surroundings I was familiar with and alongside some great chefs that could show me the ways of the trade.
Tell us more about your culinary background…
Once I’d completed all of my formal qualifications and built up some great experience, I made the move to Bath in 2002 and began working at Hunstrete House (now known as The Pig, Bath).
This was to be the place that I would achieve my first Head Chef’s role and initial accolades but it was my next move to Homewood Park in 2006 that saw me reach my goal of achieving 3 AA Rosettes for the first time in my career. In the same year (2011) I was also awarded with a Caterer Acorn Award.
It was most definitely a stand out year for my career and probably the moment I knew that I was fully capable of setting goals, working towards them and having the drive to achieve them.
What’s your favourite summer ingredient?
It would have to be green peas, they bring a beautiful freshness to a dish and go well with almost anything.
Peas are great for creating summer soups, vibrant purées, as a garnish, eaten raw or simply served with some butter or olive oil. Perfect!
How do you incorporate sustainability into your dishes?
Sustainability can be tricky in a hotel restaurant operation; I’m always looking at ways we can improve on this.
For a long time, I’ve been a big advocate of sourcing local produce, from veg to meat, dairy and even fish from the west country where possible but in recent times have become even more aware of the importance of this. At The Gainsborough Bath Spa, we order what we need and adapt menus creatively to minimise on food waste.
What can guests expect from a meal at Dan Moon at The Gainsborough restaurant?
I like to deliver an experience where guests feel comfortable and well looked after by the front of house team.
The menus are written to take them on a food journey where their taste buds are intrigued, challenged and wowed by bold but not overpowering flavours. I’m big on presentation; I believe the plate is a canvas.
We eat with our eyes before our mouths so the presentation can make a big difference as how a dish tastes.
Do you have any role models?
Gary Rhode. He put British cooking on the map and has always stayed true to what he does best. He was a real inspiration to me when I started cooking and has been ever since.
Name three of your top restaurants…
1 Alan Ducasse at The Dorchester, I took my wife there for her 30th birthday and it was incredible.
2 Le Manoir aux Quat’Saison
3 Ynshir Hall led by Head Chef Gareth Ward
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
You only get what you put in – if you put in half an effort, you’ll get half a result. Work with the best chef possible to allow you to learn as much as possible.
Additionally, question everything and always be on the look out for how you can work as part of the team to make improvements.
Lastly, what keeps you inspired?
So many things. My guests, my chefs, my need to always strive for continuous improvement and my kids – they definitely keep me inspired and motivated to keep going and keep getting better.