“LARGE STREAMS FROM LITTLE FOUNTAINS FLOW, TALL OAKS FROM LITTLE ACORNS GROW” 14th century proverb
📷The quieter you are the more you hear.
Two men. One dream. It started long ago. Longer than they’d ever care to admit. The first steps through a kitchen door. The atmosphere. The noise. The intensity. Huge pans of who knows what bubbling away on stoves. The noise of knives on chopping boards, fridge doors opening and closing, pans being rattled. The looks of concentration on faces as they get ready for the day ahead. Being walked through the kitchen, meeting stern looking cooks, receiving a quick nod, both acceptance of existence and dismissal in the same grunt, before returning to whatever task was occupying their attention. Work hard, Work Clean, Work fast, Heads Down, Push Push.
The first task of the day. Tomatoes. More tomatoes than he has ever seen in one place in his life, to be peeled, deseeded and diced. It’s just a tomato? Who knew?? Not this boy. Tomatoes have skin? Furthermore, it is less than desirable to eat. How do we peel a tomato? Well, we remove the core, cut a small cross on the top, plunge it into the biggest pan of boiling water imaginable, cool it in ice. Be careful not to overcook it. It’s magic. The magic of cooking. He doesn’t know it yet. He just sees a lot of tomatoes. But this is one of the defining moments of his life. This is to be his life.
📷The other chefs? He looks up to them in awe. The way they work. Fast. Clean. Organised. Like a machine. The way their knives are like an extension of their hands. His feels clumsy and awkward. He wants to be like them. To be able to work like they work. To be one of them. For the most part he is ignored by them. Just instructions barked impatiently to be followed precisely, and fast. Always fast. Push, Push. Acceptance is not given here, it’s earnt. Listen, Learn. Listen, Learn.
There is no certainty, only opportunity.
As the years pass by, this enchantment with the magic of cooking, the life, the process of turning a ‘simple’ thing like a tomato into something magical, for the enjoyment of others turns from a task to be completed, to a passion. Keep quiet. Watch. Learn. Food
Fast forward. Back to the two men. The date is August 2017. A chance encounter in the most unlikely of locations. Years have passed. Years of listening, watching, learning. Being quiet. 📷Honing and refining their craft. Not everything they’ve seen they’ve liked. But they’ve learnt. Their journeys have taken them across the country, from peeling that first tomato, to organising, and conducting a room of cooks to complete a myriad of small tasks, which when completed becomes a plate of food, a whole meal, an experience. They’ve worked hard, fast, clean. Heads down. Pushed.
Separate paths. One journey. Each in their own right has gone on to achieve. A bond is formed, over waffles and fried chicken of all things. A friendship borne from food (not so much the waffles…), a shared passion and a slightly dark sense of humour. Similar philosophies, experiences and a mutual frustration at the restrictions placed on our craft led to a vision being formed. To create a platform for that craft learnt over years of watching and learning. To create an environment of enjoyment for people to dine on the lessons we have learnt.
Beneath this mask, there is an idea. And ideas are bulletproof.
📷So what did we learn? We learnt some recipes. Some skills. How to peel a tomato. Sure. These are the tools of our craft. The fundamentals. But of most importance was the idea. The philosophy.
Food is for eating. End of. Anything else is window dressing. In itself a fleeting moment perhaps. But one which creates memories, that may last longer than any worldly possession.
No more hushed temples to gastronomy, dining rooms orchestrated to massage the ego of the chef, and overbearing waiting staff, interrupting conversations, as if trying to feel they are also just as important to the proceedings. Ridiculous dress code ‘requirements’. As if you are not worthy of eating our creations without a shirt and jacket. A building of people wanting to be the star of the show. We are Incognito. Eating should be fun. None of these superfluous things matter. Yes – be pampered. Yes – provide luxury. But no starch. Just good fun. Good food. In a relaxed environment. Put your elbows on the table. We don’t care. All that matters is your enjoyment, and the food.
So what of that food. Food is of time and place. We have watched and learnt as food trends have come and gone. We neither accept, or reject any of these learnings.
Our mantra is respect and simplicity. But then the thing about simplicity, is its simply not that simple. There’s nowhere to hide. We like that. Take the best, treat it with care, and serve it in the best manner for your enjoyment. Respect those ingredients. Remember the tomato? We do not distinguish in value to our cuisine between a simple tomato, or a glamorous fillet steak. Neither do we distinguish in value between that fillet steak, or the cheek from the same animal. Both can be turned in to something special with correct technique and respect.
Seasonal? It goes without saying. It’s a fundamental part of our philosophy. But we see no purpose in brandishing such a fundamental part of cuisine as a badge of honour. Its like boasting our roller-skates have wheels.
📷Local? If its good. Just so you know, I currently buy all my beef from Anthony Andrews in Duffield. Because its some of the best I’ve tasted. The fact he’s 3 miles away from my house is merely a sprucey bonus. It is a mantra that has been sung about over and over again. If its good we’ll use it. Shock horror, controversial statement, but if its better from 30 miles away, we’ll use that instead. Quality over clichés. Honesty over all. Every bad farm is local to somewhere.
📷We quite simply take great ingredients. The best. Make them taste of what they’re supposed to taste of, and pair them with other quality ingredients that compliment them. Serve them in a manner for the enjoyment of YOUR evening. The stars of this show are you, the people dining, and the ingredients themselves. The rest is hidden behind the mask.
So lets not try and define our food. We simply just call it food. And we hope you enjoy it. This is the most important lesson we learnt.
Give someone a mask, and they’ll show their true face.
So what is Incognito Dining? Its is an idea. A philosophy.
As for our events, we run guest chef evenings at a few hand-picked restaurants – these we will only do in venues we like and respect. Whose core values match our own.
But primarily it is our pop-up ‘anti-restaurant’ evenings, to provide an intimate and different dining experience that set us apart. From booking, through to departure. An evening quite unlike any other. Each event being unique to location, and time of year. Free from the restraints of a restaurant environment, we are free to create an evening of engagement, suspense and excitement for your enjoyment, as well as the type of meal that will create memories.
We do not publish our menus. Menus for these events are not decided until the week of the event, based on what is of the best possible quality at the time.
So what of our future plans? The end game? We know. But we’re not telling. The quiet ones never do. Heads down, work hard, work fast. Push push. #