Chef of Chef Works: Hira Thakur JUNE 2023
Chef: Hira Thakur.
Restaurant/Kitchen: Cleaver and Wake.
Location: The Island Quarter, Nottingham, UK.
Social Media: @cleaverandwake - Instagram
This month we had the pleasure to sit down with Chef Works wearer, Hira Thakur – Head Chef at the Michelin-starred Cleaver & Wake. Hailing from the Himalayas, Hira came to the UK in 2013 and has since gone strength-to-strength, honing his culinary skills at some of the finest restaurants in the area. After a stint on MasterChef he found a new home with fellow show participant and Chef Patron, Laurence Henry, at C&W; combining his love of fusion with some of the finest produce that the UK has to offer. Read more about Chef Hira's journey below…
1. Describe your restaurant and role:
Cleaver and Wake is a Modern British restaurant. My role as Head Chef is to oversee our busy kitchen on a day to day basis. From menu development to staff training – every day is different!
2. Describe your kitchen and team:
I have a very young and passionate team of chefs, they bring a lot of energy and positivity to the kitchen, allowing us to deliver great food to our customers.
3. Favourite Chef Works item and why?
My favourite Chef Works item is the Cannes Chefs coat, it’s very smart and comfortable for long shifts.
4. First job, any highlights?
My first job was my family restaurant in India, I used to be a bartender but I spent lots of time in kitchen, that’s where my love for cooking started.
5. Favourite cookbook and why?
My favourite would be Eleven Madison Park, by Daniel Humm, I really admire his style of food, he uses lots of fusions and twists in his dishes, just like we do at Cleaver and Wake.
6. Career highlights and awards:
When I did my Chef Diploma, I received the Student of the Year award during my first year. It was also amazing to be part of MasterChef The Professionals 2020. I have only been in this country for 8 years, I started from the bottom, and now I am the Head Chef at one the best restaurants in Nottingham.
Tandoori Monkfish with Mango Relish, Curried Mussels, Fennel and a Monkfish Bhaji.
7. Your cooking inspiration:
I always used to cook with my mum, when I moved to the UK I found cooking fascinating. My inspiration for cooking came from Chef Gaggan Anand, his restaurant in Bangkok got Best Restaurant in Asia and top 5 in the world, he is someone I look up to when I cook.
8. Your speciality dish and what makes it so special?
I like fusion cooking; I use classic cooking techniques with a fusion twist. For example, my Tandoori Monkfish served with Mango and Chilly Relish has been one of the best-selling dishes at Cleaver & Wake.
9. Favourite dish to eat and why?
That would be gochujang miso glazed back cod, because of the umami flavour. It’s delicious, 36 hours marinating the cod with miso makes the fish so tender it just melts in your mouth.
Chef Hira during prep in his Cannes Chef Coat.
10. Weirdest thing you ever ate?
Turmeric pasta, one the chef made turmeric pasta for a staff meal and it was the weirdest. I wouldn’t recommend it!
11. Favourite ice cream flavour and what do you pair it with?
Sourdough ice cream with a treacle tart or popcorn ice cream with chocolate anglaise.
12. Favourite family recipe?
My mum makes an amazing Rahmah Dahl (red kidney bean) with rice and my dad’s mutton curry.
13. Favourite wine – any specific ones in particular?
My favourite wine that we serve on the Cleaver wine list is Rioja Reserva Unica. It’s from Sierra Cantabria in Spain and has bright aromas of redcurrant, cherry and liquorice, it goes perfectly with the lamb that we serve on our menu.
Delicious Dry-aged Lamb Rump with Jersey Royals.
14. Who would you most like to cook for and why?
Gordon Ramsay, I would love him to give me honest feedback on my cooking.
15. And who would you least like to cook for?
People who don’t appreciate your food, there is no better feeling that seeing someone enjoy what you have prepared for them.
16. Favourite things to do when not cooking:
Spending time with my family comes first, but I also box, run and love training in the gym. It clears my mind from stress and keeps me calm.
17. Your latest project at Cleaver and Wake:
There are always projects in progress at Cleaver and Wake. From training staff to creating seasonal dishes with locally sourced produce. Most recently I’ve been working with dry aging our meat. We have four dry aging fridges in our kitchen, so it has been a great chance to help the meat develop flavour and make it more tender than it would be if completely fresh.
18. Favourite city, any particular highlights?
Ever since I moved to the UK I have been focussed on my career and family so haven’t had the time to travel much, I love London though, there are many great places to eat and drink!
Spiced Crab Salad, another menu favourite.
19. Your greatest food indulgence?
That would have to be either Korean fried chicken or Papa John pizza.
20. And finally, your all-time best culinary tip?
Hospitality is only for those who have a passion for cooking, if you don’t love what you do then this is not the career for you. The best culinary tips I can give are to read lots of books, gain knowledge and practice lots. If you listen more and speak less, then nothing will stop you from reaching your goals.
Photography: Jason Moore, food courtesy of Chef Hira/Cleaver and Wake.