Big chef, little chef: What does it take to become a kitchen star?

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In this special section we explore the whole circus of culinary celebrity: from overstuffed critics and TV wannabes to voracious publishers. But first, we ask top chefs to introduce their most promising protégés, whose recipes could have Gordon and Heston shaking in their checked trousers

Sam and Sam Clark on Jacob Kennedy

Sam and Sam Clarke are the husband-and-wife team behind the award-winning Moorish restaurant Moro in London's Exmouth Market, which they founded in 1997. They have written three Moro-inspired cookbooks.

Jacob Kennedy,28, worked, on and off, for 10 years at Moro, and was integral to the creation of its three cookbooks. During his subsequent time at Boulevard, San Francisco, as "visiting executive chef", the restaurant won a Michelin star. Back in London, he set up Konstam with Oliver Rowe, and opened Bocca di Lupo, as chef-patron this month

SC: Jacob was 17 or 18 when we first met him – he used to come and eat in the restaurant with his family. One time, he just asked for a job. Even though he had no experience, we employed him for his personality, intelligence and his passion for food. Jacob comes from a family of generous-spirited and sophisticated foodies and, for his age, he was very knowledgeable. From early on he was demonstrating incredible capability and flair. He was a formidable presence in the kitchen and we got a lot from him in return – he always had wonderfully creative ideas for recipes and helped us write the Moro cookbooks. When someone comes along that young, and is so extraordinarily advanced and talented, it is rather amazing.

We weren't at all surprised at his success after he left us, and he'll continue that [in his new restaurant] with great charm and humour – and there won't be any swearing or mental abuse of young staff in the kitchen; it's not in his nature. I'm sure it has potential for Michelin stars: he's been waiting all his life to have his own place to give pleasure through his cooking and I've no doubt it'll be some of the best food in London.

Swordfish 'alla Palermitana' – breaded and pan-fried with capers and ricotta salata

JK: This dish, from Palermo in Sicily, is a marriage of creamy and salty flavours, and succulent and crunchy textures. The pairing of a cheese with fish is often, and rightly, frowned upon – but in this case the subtle creaminess of ricotta salata (pressed, semi-dry ricotta available from good Italian delis) works as a brilliant foil to the swordfish, and the incisive flavour of the capers. There really isn't much to the dish, so quality of ingredients is imperative – use home-made breadcrumbs, and best-quality capers packed in salt.

Serves 4

1 cup home-made breadcrumbs (about 90g/31/2oz)
4 swordfish steaks, skin off, 150g-200g/5oz-7oz each
150g/7oz capers, salted (not pickled)
1 large egg
150g/7oz ricotta salata (pressed and salted ricotta)
25g/1oz wild rocket leaves, washed
125g/4oz white chicory, sliced across every 1cm
1/4 lemon
2tsp extra-virgin olive oil, for dressing
Oil for frying (best is a mixture of olive oil and sunflower oil)

First make the breadcrumbs: take a decent white loaf, and cut off all the crust. Slice, and dry for an hour or two in a low oven, 110C/225F/Gas1/4. When totally dry, pulse in a food processor or crush with a rolling pin until medium-fine; 160g/51/2oz of fresh bread, weighed without the crust, should yield about 90g/31/2oz of dry breadcrumbs.

It is essential the swordfish steaks are a good 2cm thick for this dish. If your fishmonger has a very large loin, have two large thick steaks cut and then divide each in two.

Soak the capers in a few changes of water until they are pleasantly, rather than overpoweringly, salty. Squeeze them dry – this can be done in advance. Chop them very roughly with a knife. Now season the swordfish lightly with salt and pepper. Take two-thirds of the capers, and press firmly into the flesh of the fish. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl, and coat one steak, trying not to dislodge too many capers. Make a bed of breadcrumbs on a second plate and lay the steaks on top. Turn over, and press down with some force. Turn a couple of times more, pressing well to get a fairly sturdy coating. Repeat with the other three steaks.

Heat half a centimetre of oil in a frying pan large enough to accommodate all the steaks with some room to spare, on a medium flame. Add the swordfish and fry for three minutes on each side, turning once only. You want the crumb to turn a deep golden-brown, and the fish to be just cooked through but still a little pink in the middle. Transfer onto absorbent paper to drain.

Arrange the salad leaves around four dinner plates, or one platter. Drizzle with the oil and a few drops of lemon. Put the swordfish in the centre of the dish, and coarsely grate the ricotta salata over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining capers, and serve immediately.'

Marcus Wareing on Lee Bennett

Marcus Wareing is head chef of Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley in London's Knightsbridge. The restaurant was formerly Pétrus, which Wareing opened and ran – winning two Michelin stars – on behalf of Gordon Ramsay Holdings, before a very public and acrimonious split earlier this year

Lee Bennett,28, has been head chef at Le Pont de la Tour since January. He was previously head chef at London's Savoy Grill, and has also worked at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London and Pierre Gagnaire in Paris

MW: I first bumped into Lee in the kitchen at [Gordon Ramsay's] Maze. He'd come to see if it was for him, because he knew Jason [Atherton, Maze's executive chef]. I was impressed by his CV and his enthusiasm for food, and when an opportunity came up at the Savoy, we took him on.

He has this get-up-and-go attitude – whatever you suggested, he'd do it with open arms. That is quite rare. For example, at the Savoy, Lee also had to cook for Banquette – an American-style diner above, serving burgers and Caesar salads – and he was as enthusiastic about chilli con carne as he was a Michelin-starred dish. He even put chicken and mushroom pie on the Savoy menu, and I found that incredibly enlightening – he's an extremely flexible chef.

I definitely see him having his own place in the future. He's a real all-rounder, which you don't find in many head chefs these days. He's practised in fish, pastry-making, desserts, bread-making: slowly, slowly, catchy monkey, if you take your time, it will all come together. When it comes down to it, you're judged for what you put on a plate, not how big your name is in neon lights.

Prawn and shellfish tian

LB: This recipe is classic French bistro food, which reminds me of my three years in France, working in some of Paris' top restaurants. I ate a lot of similar dishes in the French countryside. It's a great starter that's easy to make yet looks impressive. I usually make it with lobster and crab, but here I've substituted them for prawns and mixed shellfish, which may be easier to get hold of.

Serves 4

400g/13oz clams in shell
400g/13oz mussels in shell
1 onion, sliced
1 bottle white wine
1/2 bunch thyme
250g/8oz prawns in brine
250g/8oz cockles in brine
1 jar prawn cocktail sauce

For the gribiche dressing

25g/1oz boiled egg white, finely chopped
25g/1oz boiled egg yolk, finely chopped
100g/31/2 oz capers
100g/31/2 oz chopped gerkin
100g/31/2 oz chopped shallot
Olive oil, to bind

First make the gribiche dressing by simply mixing all the ingredients together, then set aside in the fridge.

Now take a hot pan and add the clams and mussels, followed by the wine, onion and herbs. Put the lid on and when the liquid starts to boil, cook until all the shells have opened, then pass into a strainer. Put the shellfish in the fridge and allow to cool. While waiting, drain the cockles and prawns and wash under cold water to rinse away any excess salt. When the mussels and clams are cold, pick out of the shell and place into a bowl. Add the prawns and cockles and bind together with the cocktail sauce.

Take four coffee cups and line with clingfilm. Fill each halfway with the mix. Cover with clingfilm and press the mix down so it is compact, then leave to set in the fridge for four hours. Now take the cups out of the fridge, then upturn on to a plate, remove the clingfilm and take out the filling. Serve with a salad and the gribiche dressing. '

Richard Corrigan on Chris McGowan

Richard Corrigan is the Irish-born chef behind Michelin-starred Lindsay House and Bentley's Seafood Bar & Grill in London and Dublin. This month he opened his new restaurant, Corrigan's, in London

Chris McGowan,38, has been head chef at Richard Corrigan's Lindsay House for six years, and has just moved to his new restaurant, Corrigan's, as head chef under Corrigan himself

RC: Talent is one thing, putting it to good use is another. An awful lot of talent in our industry falls by the wayside but Chris is willing to put in the necessary graft. What makes him stand out is his quest for knowledge. He's an all-rounder in the kitchen but his pastry skills are phenomenal.

There's no question that Chris will do his own thing in the future – and in the meantime, he's a director of my company and will go on to be a partner. His youth and his willingness to get on will hopefully push us all aside.

Roast partridge, bread pudding, chestnuts, bacon and cabbage

CM: I enjoy using partridge at this time of year, when it is in season and abundant, and this recipe is great for the ladies, who generally aren't so fond of game: partridge is lighter than pheasant, but not as heavy as grouse.

Serves 4

2 partridge
2 sprigs of thyme
1 clove of garlic
1 bay leaf
2 rashers of back bacon
300g/10oz chestnuts
250g/8oz peeled button onions
250g/8oz cured bacon, cut into lardons
8 leaves of Savoy cabbage, blanched in salted water
50g/2oz butter
50ml/2fl oz oil

For the bread pudding

450ml/16fl oz milk
A sprig of thyme
1 small bay leaf
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 whole garlic cloves
Zest of 1/2 lemon
A pinch of grated nutmeg
150g/5oz bread, no crust
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 egg and 2 egg whites
Salt and pepper

First make the bread pudding: put the milk, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, cloves, lemon zest and a little nutmeg in a saucepan and heat gently. Take off heat and leave to infuse. Meanwhile prepare four dariole moulds by brushing with butter. Put the bread in a bowl and strain over the flavoured milk and leave to soak for 20 minutes. Sweat the onions and add to the bread. Mix lightly. Beat the eggs, season and add to the bread mix. Fill the dariole moulds with this mixture and cover with buttered tin foil.

Prepare the partridge by removing the wishbone and the innards. Your butcher will do this for you. Put a sprig of thyme, piece of garlic and half a bay leaf inside each bird. Place the rasher of bacon on the breast of each bird. Tie the birds with string and leave to one side.

Heat a film of oil in a pan, colour the partridge for three minutes on each leg, then three on the breast, basting all the time. Finish in the oven for another three to four minutes. Remove and place on a cooling rack to rest.

Heat a pan and add a knob of butter. Cut the chestnuts in half and add to the pan, then add the onions and bacon. To finish, shred the cabbage and add. Place the bread pudding in a steamer for seven minutes then remove.

To serve, remove the breast and legs from both partridge and place on a bed of the cabbage. Arrange bacon, chestnuts, and onions around the plate. Finish by turning out the bread pudding, placing one on each plate.

Sally Clarke on Raffaele Colturi

Sally Clarke has run her London restaurant and deli, Clarke's, since the 1980s and pioneered the concept we take for granted today that fresh, locally sourced produce is key

Raffaele Colturi,27, is senior sous chef at Clarke's. He is the first chef to whom Clarke has given the responsibility of running the kitchen in 23 years

SC: The last thing I'd want is for any of my staff to end up on television; 80 per cent [of chefs on TV] are there to promote themselves rather than to respect the food. And what Raffaele has is an enormous amount of respect for the raw product – he'll find his success through that.

One of the things he's brought here are his northern Italian roots: it's not uncommon where he's from for households to cure their own pig, or to find and pickle their own mushrooms. This time last year he was doing some wonderful home-made bresaola with topside of beef.

In the future I imagine he'll open his own place in the mountains of northern Italy, having his own livestock and growing his own ingredients. It doesn't matter how remote it is, if the food is special, people will get there – just look at El Bulli. Raffaele is capable of creating such a place.

Warm Parmesan polenta with Scottish girolles and roasted beetroot

RC: The cooking of polenta takes me back to my childhood in Italy – my mother would stir it seemingly for hours and her dishes were always comforting, though never heavy. The memories of burning firewood in the grate and family meals around the table are still vivid, and this typically autumnal dish takes me back to those days.

Serves 6

3-4 medium-sized beetroot with leaves, washed well, leaves reserved separately
Olive oil to drizzle
1/2tsp garlic purée (crushed to a cream)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2litre/17fl oz water
1/2 litre/17fl oz milk
1 garlic clove, crushed
Small bunch of thyme stalks
2 bay leaves
250g/8oz girolle or other wild mushrooms
150g/5oz polenta
A knob of unsalted butter
2tbsp grated Parmesan
2tbsp olive oil
1/2tsp garlic purée (crushed to a cream)
1tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
12 Parmesan shavings (using a sharp knife or potato peeler)
6 thyme springs
6 small parsley springs

Cut the beetroot into equal sized wedges, place in the centre of a sheet of aluminium foil, drizzle with the olive oil, and add the crushed garlic, salt, pepper and chopped thyme leaves. Wrap the beetroot into a parcel, sealing the edges, and bake in the oven at 180C/350F/Gas4 for up to 45 minutes or until the beetroot are tender when pierced with a skewer. Immediately unwrap and add the beetroot leaves to the package. Re-wrap and re-bake for five minutes. Leave in a warm place until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, bring the water, milk, garlic, herb stalks and leaves gently to the boil, simmer for five minutes and leave covered off the heat to infuse. Now brush and trim the mushrooms of sand and discoloured parts.

Strain the milk mix into a clean pan and bring to the boil. In a steady stream add the polenta, whisking continuously as it thickens. Lower the heat and stir from time to time to stop it sticking. The polenta will take up to 20 minutes to cook through. Once it is smooth and of a "porridge" consistency, take off the heat and stir in the butter, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper. Cover and leave to one side.

Warm six plates and, in a small frying pan gently heat the olive oil with garlic and chopped thyme – when it starts to sizzle, add the mushrooms and sauté over a high heat until they start to release their juices. Season to taste. Spoon the polenta on one side of each plate, scatter over the mushrooms and juices. Place the warm beetroot to one side, garnish with Parmesan shavings and thyme sprigs and parsley. Serve immediately with a crisp green salad.

Jamie Oliver on Dennis Duncanson

Jamie Oliver, the one-time Naked Chef, campaigner for healthy eating and founder of the Fifteen Foundation, recently launched a new book, Jamie's Ministry of Food, and has a new chain of restaurants, Jamie's Italian

Dennis Duncanson,24, narrowly escaped prison to get a traineeship at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Foundation in 2001. After graduating he rapidly rose through the ranks to become chef de partie at Fifteen, London and has just been made sous chef at the new Jamie's Italian in Kingston

JO: Six years ago, I was standing in a courtroom pleading with a judge not to send Dennis to prison. I used to worry that his old mates would side-track him, but he worked hard and never let himself get knocked off course. My first impressions were "wheeler dealer", "geezer", but he also had a really nice way about him and right from the off he was keen to learn: he's like I was – desperate to take in as much knowledge and technique as he can.

Dennis has a natural flair for flavours and a very good palette, plus he's not phased by pressure. I took him to Los Angeles a few years ago to cook for Brad Pitt's 40th birthday and he was brilliant.

He's ambitious too: after graduating from Fifteen, he went to Australia for a year to work for Guy Grossi, an incredible Italian chef, and came back with so much more knowledge. He worked at Fifteen London for a while, was a personal chef for Claudia Schiffer, did a few bits at Le Caprice and then helped set up Jamie's Italians in Oxford and Bath, where he did a great job at mastering all the different sections.

It's one of the busiest jobs in the industry, but Dennis has cracked it. Now he's going to be sous chef at Jamie's Italian in Kingston and he'll be brilliant. In five or 10 years he'll be either a head chef or an executive chef somewhere – but I wouldn't be surprised if he's running his own business. He's good now, but he could be one of the best.

Autumn lamb with roasted butternut squash and watercress salad

DD: Autumn lamb can get neglected, but it is richer and more robust than spring lamb due to its maturity. It goes brilliantly with the sweetness of the squash, which is in season right now. Watercress is also great this time of year and adds a hint of pepper. If you combine this with the "wow" factor – a burst of tangy flavour from the tomato (Isle of Wight is the variety – it's especially good) – everything contrasts but combines brilliantly. It's the sort of dish I love cooking this time of year – it's comfort food but it's quick to make and easily wins over friends and family.

Serves 2

Half a butternut squash
Half a bulb of crushed garlic
4 sprigs of rosemary
Eight cherry tomatoes on the vine
4 lamb chops, well seasoned with salt and pepper
Splash of wine or stock
Couple of handfuls of watercress
A squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil to dress salad
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the squash into chunky wedges, leaving the skin on. Place into a baking tray and throw in crushed garlic, rosemary sprigs, salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Give a good rub together and place in the oven on 180C/ 350F/Gas4 for 20-25 minutes until the squash is soft to bite. Add tomatoes on the vine five minutes from the end.

Place a pan on the stove. When it's smoking hot, pan-fry the chops for three minutes on each side. Then remove and place to one side.

De-glaze the pan with a dash of wine or stock to create a great pan juice sauce. Dress the watercress with olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper.

Plate up – pan juice on chops. Job done!

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