Aaron Dalton BN1 Magazine

Brighton Food Lovers: Aaron Dalton

BN1 Magazine speaks to three food lovers and gets the lowdown on what excites their palates

Aaron Dalton is a chef with years of experience. Having worked in Chez Bruce, and also alongside renowned chef Simon Rogan at the restaurant Fera, he was also head chef at Smoking Goat which came 55th in the National Restaurant Awards and as he says: “I now run my own thing from my house called Four Restaurants.”

What made you fall in love with food to begin with?

I’m not really sure. I’ve been cooking since I was 16, nearly 27 years of my life. I’m severely dyslexic like a lot of chefs. Cooking and kitchens seem to work well with my dyslexia and the whole creative process is perfect for me. My brain retains a ridiculous amount of trivia on cooking and the only books that I read and remember are you guessed it – cookbooks. My love of cooking has got stronger and stronger over the years as I’ve gained greater knowledge and better techniques.

What was the first dish you can remember really enjoying?

I’ve always enjoyed food but there are certain times when you eat something, and it just blows you away. I had a dish at Oliver Dabbous which was his celeriac, muscat grapes, lovage and hazelnut dish. It was utterly mind blowing. The thing is with very simple dishes there’s nowhere to hide if it goes wrong.

If you were going to make a delicious meal for a loved one to show off a bit, what would it be and why?

I would probably cook Thai food as I used to be the head chef of Smoking Goat in London. I love a bit of David Tompson and Pok Pok. I don’t really cook Thai that much anymore but at the Goat is where I genuinely fell in love with cooking with fire.

Could you tell us what you’re up to at the moment?

It has been a tough few years. I can honestly say I didn’t think getting back in the Kitchen again would be an option. Two and a half years ago my wife was diagnosed with cancer and 11 months later she was gone. Now I’m the single dad of two beautiful little children Rex, five, and Sylvie, three, so I certainly have my hands full. But I did retrain when I moved back to Brighton as a carpenter and builder and built an extension on my house which is big enough to cook for 20 covers, essentially turning my house into a restaurant. We have a utility room which is a semi-professional kitchen and pot wash. It’s probably not what my late wife had in mind, but cooking is my happy place and I love it. I need to show my children that even when shit happens you still need to push for your dreams. I think she would be proud of what I’ve created as a family home / business. I’ve also built a bespoke wood fire grill area with smoker and hog roast outside complimentary of Tom from @firemadeuk in the garden with a pizza oven.

Looking forward, I am excited to be cooking my own food – perhaps a seven to eight course taster menu with a wood fire at the forefront. I also have some big collaborations in the pipeline with some London heavy hitters which I can’t wait to announce so please go and follow @chefaarondalton and @four_restaurantuk for updates or go to my website and subscribe.

If you’ve had a down day, what be the ‘go to’ cuisine that cheers you up?

The one place I love to go is Noodle Soup in Brighton, ordering the pork and dumplings all day long.

Do you think, especially in regards to children, that learning enough about nutrition is being done, or indeed important?

This is a rabbit hole of a question I could go down for quite some time. but the short answer is no. Children don’t learn enough about nutrition and food in general but with charity organisations such as The Table Talk Foundation highlighting the need for the knowledge of nutrition within schools and its education things are moving in the right direction for Brighton.

If you had the capability to affect change in any element of the food or restaurant industry, what would it be, and why?

If I could change anything it would be to disassemble the restaurant industry and rebuild it in a fair way. Don’t get me wrong I love the industry, but right now it’s broken and has been for a while. It’s built on archaic systems which are not fair to owners and the employees and now with the energy crisis and rise in food cost along with wages going through the roof it is unsustainable. Small independent restaurants lose out and big chains win as they can spread costs due to bigger buying power.

More needs to be done to help smaller restaurants otherwise we will likely see many more restaurants closing. It would be interesting to see Brighton turn itself into not just a food hub of England but to forge a new way to run the restaurant industry, maybe as a template to the rest of England. Making it fairer for everyone with better hours where you don’t have to work 60 hour weeks just to serve. I don’t know how that works but I’m sure a restaurant panel or committee could be set up. The first stage is to admit there is a problem.

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