“Winning the Roux Scholarship helps ignite the fire within you as you move forward, and you build on it.”
Dan won the Roux Scholarship in 2008 at the age of 26. It was his third time entering the competition. He did his stage at Santi Santamaria, Can Fabes, Barcelona. Dan is now running Melilot Farm, St Mellion, Cornwall, as regenerative farmer and chef in partnership with Natoora Earthworks.
Dan grew up in London and decided to be a chef after being inspired by his grandmother when visiting during his holidays in Barry in Wales. He went on to do his training at Westminster Kingsway, while working as a commis chef at The Greenhouse in Mayfair. From there, Dan worked at several other restaurants in London before entering the world of contract catering, which was reaching for Michelin-star standard restaurants in such institutions as banks and management accountancy firms. This made it a good training ground for chefs with their eye on the Roux Scholarship.
After he injured his ankle in a motorbike accident, Dan needed a role that could be done while he recuperated and so he went to work for Roger Naylor, who had been a protégé of Albert Roux at Le Gavroche and was leading the brigade at Restaurant Associates' restaurant at Merrill Lynch. Naylor taught Dan to cook many classics from the Roux repertoire and encouraged him to enter the Roux Scholarship. At the time Dan was too young to enter, but after Naylor sadly died in 2003, Dan decided to make it his mission to win.
Fast forward to 2008, and Dan won the scholarship on his third try. He spent his stage at Can Fabes, in the mountains above Barcelona, which was the starting point for his passion for witnessing well-produced ingredients go from their origin to the plate and was fascinated by the care with which the ingredients were produced.
On returning to the UK, Dan was part of the team that launched Roux at Parliament Square. After a year, he returned to the mountains - having enjoyed the environment while on this stage - and took a role at a luxury hotel Number 14, in Verbier, Switzerland. Over the course of a year, he enjoyed the outdoorsy life as it changed through the seasons; perfect for snowboarding in the winter and foraging in the summer.
After meeting Simon Rogan at the Roux Scholarship awards ceremony in 2010, the two chefs kept in touch and became friends. After returning from Switzerland, Dan then went to work in Cumbria at the research kitchen restaurant Aulis, where he further developed his passion and interest in farm-to-plate methods, as well as working with Rogan to lead the development of the architecture of new restaurants such as the décor, crockery and menu design. He also ran the farm and was given freedom by Rogan to develop it as he saw fit, a role he adored.
When Rogan was offered the residency at Claridge’s Dan returned to London with him to open Fera, where Dan worked as executive chef for three successful years, with the restaurant winning a Michelin star within three months of opening.
In 2017, Dan set in motion his dream to establish an organic farm, with a restaurant, brewery and ceramics workshop that would work in complete harmony with the land. Inspired by the quality of produce he cooked while on his stage at Can Fabes and by the produce that came from Cornwall when he was working at Fera, Dan established the 120-acre site near St Mellion in Cornwall and partnered with Natoora in 2019 to form Melilot Farm, producing excellent quality regenerative organic vegetables and rare breed sheep. Dan has painstakingly restored the soil with cover crops and livestock, meanwhile he has built all the infrastructure from scratch, bringing in chefs, potters, woodworkers and volunteers to help bring his vision for a working farm to life. With the farm now established, the restaurant and brewery will follow, however the overarching goal is to supply chefs and home kitchens with traceable, nutrient-dense produce, and to prove that growing sustainably is a financially viable and scalable alternative to intensive farming.