A Day in the Life of Michael Daniel, Owner of The Gate

Aoife Geary of Jobbio talks to The Gate owner Michael Daniel, here’s an extract from the interview

Tell us about your role and how you got there.
My role as the owner is to oversee everything. I’m not involved with each person directly but my job is to inspire from the top down and guide the business as a whole.
The business really started when my brother found the space, he was looking to get into catering and he stumbled across the space by accident. It was available to rent and he phoned me up and said ‘Do you want to help me open up a restaurant?’ It was all a bit pie in the sky – like what the hell – yesterday we didn’t have a restaurant, today we’ve got a restaurant! We were making traditional vegetarian dishes – lasagne, curry, hummus – another 2 restaurants and 27 years later, here we are.

What’s been the biggest change for you in all that time?
I think the whole of society is different. From social media to Deliveroo there’s been a lot of changes in how we eat and experience food. 30 years ago people weren’t eating out like they do now. Today, if you’re under a certain age, you just don’t cook at home very often.

What are ‘must have’ qualities to work at the Gate?
A desire to grow. Why else are you in catering otherwise? When you work on our team that growth is possible at any level. Last week I walked in the kitchen and the guy who had been washing the dishes was serving food. That’s amazing! Our chefs have the ability to grow people but those people have to want it too.

What advice would you have for people looking to excel in the industry?
In catering, you really need to give all of yourself to succeed. It’s about really throwing yourself in and then being open to learning. That’s how you grow, that’s how you really excel. Find someone to be your mentor, that can help you grow.
I did it through modelling other people who had more experience and knowledge than me. You can achieve amazing things in the catering industry when you try.

Click here to read the full interview

If you’d like to join The Gate team, click here

Foraging at The Gate Seymour Place (and a new recipe!)

The Art of Foraging at The Gate Seymour Place

On Thursday 4th May we are hosting #VegTalks on The Art of Foraging at The Gate Seymour Place as part of London Craft Week 2017. We only have a couple of places left, please email marketing@thegaterestaurants.com to reserve yours!

So why did we choose wild garlic and nettles? Not only are they in season and fairly easy to forage in the urban jungle that is London town, but we want to show you how much we can do with them and how good they are for you!
The common nettle for instance is a powerful and much underestimated part of the wild food chain. It’s an excellent source of vitamin C and iron, and one of its amazing uses is as a preventative antihistamine, which if taken steadily from very early Spring will be most effective against allergies such as hay fever.
Garlic is well known for its antibacterial, antibiotic and antiseptic properties. The main health benefit of garlic is its effectiveness in reducing blood pressure and wild garlic has the greatest effect.

Now let’s get cooking! What can you do with nettle and wild garlic?
Nettles are best in early spring when they are supercharged with all things good! Blanch or boil to remove the sting and use them as you would a leaf vegetable. Add it to stir-fries or simply steep the leaves in boiling water to make a healthy and warming tea.
With wild garlic, unlike domestic garlic, it is the leaves, rather than the bulbs, that are prized. Use them raw in salads, sandwiches, dressings and finely chopped as a garnish. A popular use is in pesto instead of basil. When cooked the leaves can be used like spinach or you can blanch and puree them as a sauce, in soups, stews, risottos, and lots more! The stems and unopened flowers are great in salads and stir fries. You can also eat the opened flowers, their flavour is stronger than that of the leaves. In small quantities the flowers make a decorative and tasty addition to salads.

If you don’t feel like cooking but want to try something new, our new lunch menu features a lovely vegan Penne Alla Nettle. And if you want to give foraging a go, our Head of Food Yossi Edri has been kind enough to share his (not-so-secret anymore) recipe!

Penne alla Nettle (vegan)

Ingredients:
500g penne
200g nettle leaves
50g pine nuts, lightly toasted 30ml lemon juice
10g garlic, peeled
50ml olive oil
250ml soy cream
100g rocket leaves, washed
100g cherry tomatoes, split in half
Salt & pepper

Method:
1. Cook the pasta as instructed on the packaging and reserve
2. Bring some water to the boil, place the nettle leaves for 1 minute in the boiling water and then remove and refresh in ice cold water
3. In a high speed blender mix the cooked nettle, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and most of the pine nuts (about 40g) to make a pesto
4. In a large frying pan place a bit olive oil and the pesto and start warming it with the vegan soy cream. Add the pasta and mix till the pesto is mixed evenly. When it’s all hot and ready to serve, mix in the cherry tomatoes and rocket leaves, plate in pasta bowls and decorate with remaining pine nuts.

Gated Community, The Marylebone Journal – The Gate Seymour Place

The Gate restaurant has been confounding people’s expectations of vegetarian food for more than 
25 years. The Journal pays a visit to its new Seymour Place branch to meet Michael Daniel, one of the brothers behind this brilliant, eccentric culinary institution.

This is The Gate, Seymour Place: the third outpost of a restaurant which, like me, was born in Hammersmith over 25 years ago, and burnt down a week later. Okay, so I didn’t burn down, but the hospital I was born in did, in an accident my mother describes as “no surprise, nor any great shame”. It didn’t reopen—unlike The Gate, which after a bit of work (“I thought the remen would put the re out. Not hack the kitchen to pieces,” Michael grimaces) reopened the following January—the slowest month of the restaurant calendar. “We didn’t know that at the time. We didn’t know anything about restaurants. We just bought fruit, veg and pulses and had some family and friends over. For six months, that was the busiest we got.”

They found themselves slowly, much as they had their vegetarianism—Adrian (Michael’s older brother and co-founder) converted in his late teens after a childhood of the meat dishes that were the staple of their Iraqi-Jewish community. “Everything we ate growing up contained meat or fish. My mother had a repertoire of 20 dishes, six of which she’d do every Friday, when we always ate as a family for Shabbat.” When Adrian turned vegetarian, aged 17, after a summer working at McDonald’s and “a growing belief that the moral and ethical arguments against mass consumption of animals were right and compelling”, she had no alternative but to adapt these dishes, conjuring flavours, textures and— crucially—appearances of such richness and beauty, their essence would go on to form the blueprint for The Gate’s award-winning food. “She was resistant at first—still is, sometimes,” says Michael, with a grin. Only the other day she tried to pass off a chicken schnitzel as vegetarian. Yet the schnitzels and rich, hearty stews that have featured on The Gate’s menu over the years owe their success to her. The brothers had no formal training— ”I’d been a pot washer, which was more than Adrian had done”—but they reference their mother and grandmother often when it comes to cooking rice or working with spices. “It’s funny, sometimes I go to a restaurant and nd Italian and Thai food on the same menu and think, what is this crap? This isn’t a cuisine, it’s a mish-mash. But that’s what we do and it works for us, because of this central premise of producing good, exciting vegetarian food.” Looked at this way, Thai green curry, wild mushroom risotto cake and tortillas are “branches of the same tree”, informed by the brothers’ upbringing, their travels and the gastronomic melting pot that is London.

They faced some significant hurdles: not only was their restaurant on a forgotten back street in Hammersmith, but they were part of the Rudolf Steiner Christian Community centre, cooking what was—back then, at least—a largely overlooked kind of food. “We were leafleting theatregoers at the Apollo before shows and rushing back in time for service. One day these guys came in who worked at a local music company and asked, ‘do you take luncheon vouchers?’ Me and Adrian looked at each other like, what the hell are they? then said, of course we do, sir!” Michael grins. “That got our lunchtimes going—only two to three pounds a head, but it was something.” Was the vegetarianism an impediment? “We didn’t think about being veggies. We were just cooking our food in our space,” says Michael. What bothered him was the “old world” regulations that kept them closed on Sundays and liquor-free for the first crucial years. “I thought, we have to dissociate ourselves from the church, otherwise no one will come, so I had Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones blaring out all day,” he laughs. Yet however loud it blared, Wild Horses could not stand in for the alcohol license which left their evening diners “in the back end of nowhere” with nothing to drink. “We didn’t have much evening trade—just a trickle, really. If they wanted a drink, the nearest bottle of wine was at least 10 minutes away.” In the end, they stashed a couple of bottles behind the bar, and gave it to those who asked. Free. “I can’t sell you wine, but I can give you wine, I’d say and some would get it, and leave a tip after, and some would wonder what on earth we were doing.”

Surely that couldn’t work  financially? “We didn’t think like that. We didn’t think about bottom lines and targets. We spent less than we made and we were there all the time,” Michael shrugs. “Nothing came out of the kitchen that was less than what we thought it should be. We knew the food was wonderful, because we were there.” While other chefs went travelling, Michael and his brother were “working all the time”. “We did go to Glastonbury,” he grins mischievously, and I smell a good story. “It wasn’t official. We just took food and sold it. There were 10 of us, all running along a ditch with jerry cans of water and peas, looking for a place to get over the fence, and there was a guy running after us with a baseball bat, shouting at us. Adrian wanted to forget about it, but we finally got in and set up on the floor with our pots and pans.” They sold two large pots of spinach dhal in less than two hours—”even though no one could see us!”

Back at The Gate, it was business as slightly unusual until, a couple of years in, there was “a sense of, we can do this. This is actually going to carry on.” Vegetarianism was taking off. Mildreds had opened, and Manna— arguably London’s oldest vegfest— was rebranding. Michael and Adrian may have been based in the back end of nowhere, but “we were getting a huge following. I knew almost everyone who came through the door, and the phone rang constantly,” Michael recalls. In the end, they had to get a chef in to help them. While they may have started on a wing and a prayer, they’d become a benchmark for vegetarian food that could be “tasty, fresh, sexy and fun”. “If there was a deeper ethos than that, I don’t think it would have worked,” says Michael. “We didn’t think too much about what went into a dish, so long as the avours were right. To be healthy and happy is to enjoy food that’s good for you—food that’s visually and texturally pleasing.” It’s why the clean eating trend leaves him a little cold. Does Michael feel the simple, ethical and environmentally-led choices he made in the 1980s have been tainted by the pursuit of ‘wellness’ via bone broth and spirulina? “It is definitely there. I can feel it,” he muses, “but it’s not going to take over, I don’t think. There will always be people who just want to enjoy food. As society goes in one direction, exactly the opposite happens in another: there’s ‘clean eating’, but burgers and chicken wings have never been bigger. There’s feminism,” he points out, “but the level of abuse of women on Twitter is terrible.” Vegetarianism is complicated. It shouldn’t be, but it’s been co-opted by groups whose motives are subjective, and whose science is suspect: groups who condemn dairy, shun sugar—all sugar—and are convinced gluten is “sandpaper for the gut”, as one popular health crusader put it. “We’re so keen on labelling ourselves this or that—‘I don’t eat cheese’, ‘I don’t eat potatoes’, ‘I don’t eat meat substitutes’—but I’m not against anything if you enjoy it,” says Michael.

[…]

He tries to define the mindset that “people walking into a vegetarian restaurant have, whether they’re veggie or not”, but he can’t pin it down much beyond good food and recycling. It is too nebulous. It is too broad a church, accommodating—in his generous, liberal view—everyone from Deliciously Ella, to Paul McCartney, to a rebellious, Rolling Stones-loving British-Iraqi-Jew who loves margaritas. “You know what? We are a restaurant serving tasty food, and we like sharing. That’s what we’re about,” he concludes nally.

In these fractious times, it is sentiment as warming as the chilli- tequila kickback. Cheers.

Read the full article here

Vegan Restaurants in West London, About Time – The Gate Hammersmith

Destroy a Wholesome Burger: Quinoa Burger at The Gate

What: The Gate’s Beetroot & Quinoa Burger

The Blend: Homemade brioche bun, tomato, baby gem lettuce, smoked tomato relish and new green pickled cucumber.

The Lowdown: If you’re willing to make a break from Notting Hill to pop to nearby Hammersmith, Adrian and Michael Daniel have been running London’s most successful vegetarian restaurant since December 1989. The cooking at the Gate reflects the diverse cultural background in which they grew up; the food we serve is the food of their childhood, modulated by French and Italian influences. Come here for the best veggie food in town, and a cracking quinoa burger.

Where: 51 Queen Caroline Street, London W6 9QL

Click here for the full list

Restaurant Review, The London Economic – The Gate Seymour Place

First launched in Hammersmith, The Gate, however, has been operating for over twenty-seven years, and is one of few restaurants to have gained a solid reputation for an exclusively meat-free menu before the turn of the century. Twenty-three years later, another branch opened on Islington’s St. John Street, and at the end of 2016 a third outpost opened. The latest outpost is on Seymour Place, just behind Edgware Road, and is bright and welcoming, split between two levels […]

Posing a menu without a single trace of meat or fish, most dishes are also available with a vegan or gluten-free option. Following a round of jalapeño margaritas with enough acidity to work up a real appetite, we start with three lentil pate terrine and couscous fritters.

Pastes of red lentil enhanced with smoked paprika and tomato, basil-laced green lentil and beluga lentil with olive are pressed into a pretty-looking slab – like Neapolitan ice cream with a natural palette. The green and beluga pairings work delightfully well together, with a stark contrast between sweet basil and umami olive. The red lentil counterpart is fine, too, though best alone with the accompanying slices of toast. Couscous fritters are a loving nod to Moroccan cuisine, albeit modernised. Here, four golf balls of breaded and fried couscous are subtly spiced and laced with feta cheese possessing enough lactic acid to cut through any residual grease from the fryer.

A main course of butternut rotollo is a complex dish, with a mound of sage-infused potato surrounding an earthy mushroom duxelle and chestnut and pistachio sphere of stuffing. Strangely enough, these contrasting flavours all work in harmony, while a scattering of parsnip crisps adds a pleasant level of texture […]

To finish, a wedge of vegan cheesecake is unexpectedly the best thing eaten here. Substituting cheese for a paste of fatty cashew nuts, the ‘cheese’ element of the dish has a surprisingly desirable texture, while some tart cranberry jam is on hand to cut through the fattiness. What’s more, the restaurant’s bar also serves an impressive selection of digestifs: the outstandingly moderate pricing of rare Yamazaki 12 year-old Japanese whisky, for instance, must be taken advantage of before stocks deplete entirely.

In addition to serving a selection of well-executed dishes, the latest opening of The Gate continues to prove that vegetarian food needn’t be unexciting.

Click here for the full review