Damian Wawrzyniak: Gary Rhodes made me the chef I am today

When I got to my kitchen this morning, it was still dark. I usually start the day by making a sourdough. It was only when I finished that I heard the incredibly sad news of chef Gary Rhodes’ death.

I had to sit down and process everything. He was such a young man and I was overwhelmed with sympathy for his friends and family.

Like him, I cook with the best produce. It’s about simple food, prepared with care and passion. I don’t use anything that could be difficult to source or prepare; only the best British ingredients cooked to perfection.

My current menus are based on this and always will be. Polish cuisine shares a similar motto to the one he cooked by – cook with love and care, but use the best, local ingredients. Diners love this way of cooking.

Gary’s simple cooking was always — and will always be — an inspiration to me. 

The first time I learnt about Chef Gary was back in Poland. I was browsing the world’s best chefs online and through newspapers, and there Gary was. The feature was all about his cooking at Greenhouse, where he won a Michelin star in 1996.

I was only a kid but I was gathering as much information as possible to make sure I was ready to take on working as a chef in France, which I did in 1999. 

I still remember when I made my first bread and butter pudding – it was Gary’s recipe. Before that I did not know you could make desserts out of bread! It’s why it became one of my favourites. 

This week I will serve this great dessert at my restaurant, House of Feasts, in Gary’s honour. I’m starting the preparation right now. 

Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure to meet Chef Gary. But reading most of his books, watching him on TV and cooking his recipes, I feel like I have met him at least a dozen times. 

I have been lucky enough to eat at his restaurant, Rhodes 24, however. I was working at a wedding venue in Hertfordshire and I was always talking about Gary Rhodes and how much I loved his food. So my boss took me for dinner!

It was a sensational experience. It wasn’t just about the food, but the service was amazing and I had finally tried food cooked by my idol.   

I will never forget that night, it was perfect simplicity.

I have no doubt that the sudden death of Gary Rhoses will have a massive impact on us and young chefs. Young chefs are the future of gastronomy and I hope they will follow his style, approach to ingredients and keep the memory of this great culinary hero alive. 

There are so many great British ingredients available on our doorstep; we are flooded with foods from all over the world, great pieces of meat, vegetables and seafood.

Gary realised this but also tried something different. Gary noticed British classics, like faggots, could be the focus of a dish. It is this mastery of noticing the real flavour and his cooking technique that meant he was awarded a Michelin star.

Chef Gary will be truly missed. He was one of very few culinary legends who deserves perfectly prepared Mise en Place in heaven

Rest in peace, chef.

Culinary Regards,


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