Daniel Calvert is a sous chef at Thomas Keller's three-Michelin-starred Per Se in New York. He speaks to Kerstin Kühn about his experience of living and working in the Big Apple
How has working abroad enhanced your career?
From ingredients to technique to the sheer diversity of cooks that come to New York and especially Per Se, working abroad has given me a unique experience and a fresh viewpoint of our industry. There is always something new to be learned every day. Also, to be taken away from everything that is familiar, especially in the kitchen environment, can be challenging. Even though America is English speaking, it is still a foreign country.
What do you like about working in New York?
I love the constantly changing food scene - not just within the high-end establishments of Manhattan, but also amongst the neighbourhood restaurants of Brooklyn and Queens. There seems to be such a thriving mid-range restaurant scene. Casual dining is so popular with the food, products and execution all of a high quality. The nightlife is great, too; it really is the city that doesn't sleep!
What could UK hospitality learn from New York, with regards to people management?
I've found that there is a great support system between the dining room, kitchen and administrative teams here at Per Se. Across the board, everybody strives to achieve the highest standards, and the collaboration really comes into play when mentoring and training are involved. Everyone feels comfortable asking questions and driving one another to find the answers.
What has surprised you most about hospitality in New York?
There is a real camaraderie between cooks and chefs from different restaurants. We are always excited to cook for our peers when they visit the restaurant, and it is always reciprocated.
What trends could we adopt in the UK from New York?
It would be great to see more accessible, affordable, casual dining. When I left London, there were very few mid-range restaurants, just the high-end and the high street. To see passionate creativity at every level of the restaurant spectrum would be really encouraging.
What advice would you give to anyone in the hospitality industry wishing to work abroad?
The single most important thing to consider about moving abroad to work for an establishment is commitment. The restaurant has made a commitment to you, and you should match it, not only in the workplace, but on a day-to-day basis in the country, city or village you may be working in. Consider yourself an ambassador of your country and of your restaurant background.
Where else in the world would you like to work and why?
I've always felt drawn to France and would love to work, or even just stage there at some point. I wouldn't need to be in Paris necessarily. I'd love to spend some time out in the country somewhere. Most of my experience in the kitchen is deeply steeped in French foundation and technique, and I would love to work in the places where it all started.
Do you plan to return to work in the UK and, if so, how will you use your experience of working abroad?
I do plan on returning to the UK at some point in the next couple of years. I would like to open my own restaurant in England, my home. I would bring all of the experience and product knowledge from my time in New York, but also a strong sense of relationship consciousness. Working at Per Se has submerged me in our long-standing relationships with our purveyors. It doesn't matter whether you are talking about our meat and fish or fruit from the French Laundry garden in Napa, we have a great respect for our purveyors and their products. It is essential to embrace that respect and practice it daily.
CV: Daniel Calvert
● 2009-present Per Se, New York City
● 2007- 09 L'Autre Pied, London
● 2006-07 Pied à Terre, London
● 2004-06 The Ivy, London