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Chef Q&A: Marlon Erne

PUBLISHED: 18:34 28 July 2014 | UPDATED: 18:47 28 July 2014

Crab, crayfish and avocado tian

Crab, crayfish and avocado tian

Darrin Jenkins 2014

The head chef at The Whistling Duck in Hertford gives an insight into his kitchen

Marlon ErneMarlon Erne

Describe your style. Modern British with an Asian influence. I grew up in the Philippines and I love experimenting with traditional Asian flavours like soy, ginger and lime, which work so well with fresh, seasonal produce.

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How do you decide your menu? It’s always guided by the season. Seasonal produce is the basis of flavoursome food. In spring/summer we like create fresh tasting, lighter dishes, like our tomato, mozzarella and strawberry summer salad – these fresh, zingy flavours work really well in warm weather. And lots of tasting of course. We get the whole team together and test new dishes, refining the flavours until we’re happy.

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Which menu dish do you most enjoy preparing? All of them! I don’t think they’d be on the menu if I didn’t. A particular favourite at the moment is the salmon gravadlax. We craft the thinly-sliced cured salmon into rose shapes. It’s intricate work but well worth it when you see it on the plate.

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What ingredient is most important to your cooking? Fresh seasonal vegetables. They give so much flavour and freshness and are amazingly versatile as well – you can roast a carrot to bring out its caramelized sweetness, thinly slice it in a crunchy vegetable pickle or even mash it with plenty of butter for a satisfying creaminess. Endless possibilities.

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Your best culinary idea? At The Whistling Duck, my Asian inspired dishes have been a big success, the duck breast with pak choi, soy and ginger and the pork belly flavoured with lemongrass in particular.

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Who did you train under and what did they teach you? In the Philippines, I trained under Benjamin Casabon. He taught me all the culinary basics. He also taught me the right attitude: working with courteousness towards your colleagues and respecting the kitchen hierarchy.

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What’s your prediction for the next food trend? Bringing diners closer to food including ‘show cooking’. One way we’ve brought this into The Whistling Duck is through our puddings. Order crêpes suzettes or banana flambé and you’ll see them made right in front of you at your table – all the aromas, sights and sizzles. Food should be about the experience as well as the taste.

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QUICK GRILL

What’s in your fridge at home? Traditional Asian fish called Tilapia, plenty of Asian vegetables like amapalaya and fresh meats and poultry. And lots of seasoning – soy sauce, sesame oil and oyster sauce.

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Favourite quick meal? Stir fry – easy and delicious. Use a garnish like chives or scallions to really maximize flavour.

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Top three tips for amateur chefs? Focus! Listen to experienced chefs and accept criticism, it’s the best way to learn. Work with love and cook from the heart.

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Best cookbook? Too many to pick one. Anything by Gordon Ramsey and Michel Roux, and James Martin for desserts.

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