Q&A with Daniel Hulme, Founder of One Fine Dine

q&a-with-daniel-hulme,-founder-of-one-fine-dine

Daniel Hume is the founder of One Fine Dine, a London based fine dining concept that offers a unique experience for gourmands to enjoy in their homes. The service delivers freshly prepared and pre-cooked exquisite dishes (that require less than a 15 minute reheat), along with step-by-step instructions to ensure each dish is plated to the highest standard, giving diners the chance to play MasterChef in their own home. Discover more about the concept and the talented Chef turned successful business man. 

Daniel, you’ve been a food enthusiast from a very early age, please tell us how your interest in food was sparked and nurtured.

When I was six, I was diagnosed as Type 1 diabetic, so food has always played an important role in my life. As a result, I have always been aware of what I eat, but that didn’t stop me expanding my palate – thankfully my mother encouraged me to be adventurous with food. I remember cooking my first meal from a recipe shown on Blue Peter, and that was it – I was hooked.

Throughout your career, you have worked in some highly-reputed restaurants around the world, what were the major differences in approach and style, in each county / city and which (if any) has most influenced your own style?

London was truly exciting when I was an apprentice 20 years ago. It was really starting to define itself as culinary centre – I think before that English food often saw other cultures turn their nose up at it – the chefs who were changing our food scene were those who had travelled and brought inspiration back to London. A trepid adventurer, I visited many places, spending a lot of time in Asia, Europe, North and South America, the Caribbean, and these have highly-influenced my own style and taste, along with that of my businesses. For me, I love food that is made to be shared – Lebanese/ South East Asian/ Spanish – any foods that allow you to gather for the occasion, be it family or friends, where you share dishes and experiences. Having had the pleasure of eating in some of the best restaurants in the world, I was able to combine everything I loved to offer an eclectic mix of choices.

Tell us about your decision to move to chef on-board some of the world’s most luxury super yachts and your experiences – you must have some great stories!

I ended up working on super-yachts by chance. While travelling and working in the south of France in Juan-les-Pins – which if you have ever been to, is super yacht heaven – I met a chef in a bar who suggested I target the yacht market. His guidance was to print out 100 CV’s, head to Monaco and work my way back down the coast via each port. It all started from there, that chance meeting in a bar (like every good story, right?). It wasn’t simply pure luck – I had gathered something of a reputation for my culinary skills, so word travelled fast which led to me finding work quickly.

And if / how you had to adapt your menus and style of cooking to this environment?

What I learned from the world of super yachts was that cooking for people and their guests in their own residence is an ultra-personal experience. It’s a celebration of the meal, so I got to produce feasts based upon a centre dish to be shared – the food then becomes the focal and talking point of the evening.

I think many people assume the uber rich eat caviar every day, but that is not the case. Many of my clients wanted simple dishes, cooked to perfection, and that is where your true skills come in.

Your in-flight catering business On Air Dining has been a huge success, where did the idea for this business come from and what are the most poignant moments from this experience?

I travelled a lot between the UK and Spain, and on each journey, I kept seeing these private jets parked up – and I thought I’ve done the house and yachts, why not give the jets a go. I presumed the food eaten on private jets would be akin to that of private yachts, but it seemed as the though meals served were stuck in time – it hadn’t progressed to an elite level, so I saw an opportunity where I could bring some much-needed innovation to this sector.

I brought in a system which had never been done before – we were the first to offer high-end, restaurant food with easy-to-follow steps for the cabin crew to follow. Taking into consideration the limited facilities and space on-board, we made the process as simple as possible with picture cards for easy (and consistent) plating and a fast reheat. It was a game-changer that allowed anyone to heat and plate food to the same standard as of that seen in a first-class dining establishment.

Our unique concept immediately earnt On Air Dining and myself many accolades within the private aviation community, and I have become the go-to spokesperson for anything to do with food on private jets.

That system was developed 11 years ago and it’s exactly the same system we use for One Fine Dine.

It was the success of On Air Dining that sparked the idea that you could also deliver high-end, gourmet food at-home. Please tell us about the journey to establish One Fine Dine, your most recent business venture and one of the first at-home fine dining experiences to launch in the UK.

I have been toying with the idea of delivering our product to homes for around 5 years. Due to my background in the private chef world, it has always been a progression I wanted to make as I could see the uniqueness of what we offer, and felt the demand would be high. I guess in some respects, the pandemic gave me that push I needed to get it going. We went for it as a start-up, thinking it was now or never, knowing that lockdown was imminent. I have full confidence in our product offering and knew it would work well at-home. Plus, we had the capability for high volumes, so it was kind of a no brainer.

It was the right time as the service has been so well received, and it has really taken off! The feedback we get is amazing, and we are now positioned with many Michelin-starred restaurants.

There must be a lot of consideration given to a menu that is conducive of this type of delivery – if / how does it differ to creating menus for a restaurant and what can a One Fine Dine guest expect from your menus?

It wasn’t too difficult from a product concept point of view because we have been doing it for 10 years. A lot of new companies who have set up in the last 12 months have had to start from scratch, but as we had everything already in place our systems have allowed us to expand rapidly as a culinary concierge service. We just changed our final destination from private jets to private homes.

Our service is not only of superior quality and super easy, it also brings the added element of fun, with our plating up guides! We operate seven days a week (and can deliver within 12 hours’ notice), offering a huge selection of cuisines from around the globe, each handpicked and created by our expert chefs, to offer a high-end dining experience like no other.

Our behind-the-scenes prep enables our customers to fully immerse themselves in the luxury experience, rather than having to spend hours following cooking instructions in the kitchen. We take the stress out of a dinner party, family dinner, or romantic meal for two – our customers simply need to reheat (no more than 15mins), plate (with fun instructions provided) and serve. Simple.

It’s different to creating a restaurant menu where you think about cooking and serving the dish immediately, in our world we use the cook chill process. The clever part is that every component is cooked in a specific way and to the same point so that when it arrives in the home, everything is reheated for the same amount of time and comes out perfectly cooked. No time management is needed as we have already executed this in our own kitchens.

As a perfectionist, it must be quite a challenge for you to send the dish out with you (or your team) not doing the final plating. How do you overcome this and ensure diners enjoy superior quality food and drink in the comfort of their own home?

Our process is fool proof. I am scrupulous when it comes to every aspect of the business, making sure every element is refined and that we have the right team on board. Because of this, I am confident that every dish we send out will bring fun and joy to the diner.

No cooking skills are required, just a fast and simple reheat, with step-by-step plating instructions to being an element of fun to the kitchen. Even if the plating doesn’t quite go to plan, the taste is always exceptional. Someone once described it as Michelin-star playdough

What has been the most lavish and the most unusual dish you have ever cooked?

I did two series of The Worlds Most Expensive Food – we were the only company to be featured in both. We created the most expensive cup of coffee priced at £325 a cup, and made a coffee and gold leaf dessert priced 900 a portion!

The most unusual was on the second series where they flew me out to the Artic Circle where we scuba dived to collect these Artic Circle urchins – a type of shellfish which are a delicacy and extremely rare. We then had two planes and a car journey to hand deliver them back to London.

You are passionate about using locally and sustainably sourced meat and produce, in your opinion where in the world has the finest natural larder?

I believe each country has its own, split by region and local area, and the produce found here is definitely going to be the best you have eaten. Anything that is native and hasn’t had to travel, that has been left on tree or on ground until the very last minute, will taste far better and richer than anything else. I love British food – our farmers, artisan growers, cheesemakers are all absolutely fabulous. We are also producing some of the best sparkling wine in the world.

The subject of sustainability and eco-friendly is really close to my heart. As an Ex-scuba diving instructor, I have spent many occasions pulling plastic from coral reefs and have seen first-hand oceans of plastic popping up. I drive my team bananas trying to find the most sustainable packaging out there. Yes, it is more expensive, but we are a high end product, so we can afford to spend a bit more to ensure we are doing all we can to help reduce waste and reduce our environmental impact. There are still areas we can improve and I am striving to implement changes always. I look forward to the day when we have a 100% biodegradable heating container. We need more companies to start demanding sustainable products, driving the demand so that we see more and more eco-friendly alternatives on the market. We 90% there. I have also begun a search for an all-electric refrigerator vehicle so that we can switch up our fleet and reduce our carbon emissions further

Who would you most like to cook for and why?

Without a doubt, Elon Musk. Although I started as a chef, I am a business man now, so I would love to understand his business mindset, how he deals with success and failures, his dedicated belief to being able to deliver something that people want.

You have adapted your business model to successfully work with the limitations the CoVid pandemic has inflicted across the world, how do you envisage the fine dining market evolving over the next few years?

I think the fine dining market will have to change. It’s one of the most important industries in the world, supporting a huge number of people, not just those who work directly in an establishment, but the entire eco system around it including farmers and producers – it’s devastating to see the effect the pandemic has had on it.

Moving forward I think there will be more focus on micro events, where we will cater for events 6 – 20 people where we will send our fine dining product, along with a chef to these events.

I believe we are covid proof as our business model is geared up for this type of service – all the structure is already in place.

What does luxury mean to you?

That is an interesting one. Luxury to me is something that somebody has designed or created that they have put their heart and soul into. That’s Luxury. Knowing that when you are picking up a product that has come from a skilled master, be it skills passed down through generations, or something unique that very few people can deliver. The rarity of the skill needed, the craftsmanship that has been put into it – be it a yacht, house, food – that is what makes it desired and luxurious.

Finally, what is your life motto?

Play Full Out. I learnt from a young age that you have to play to your best ability, give it everything you have got. Due to being Type 1 diabetic, I was often told that life would be difficult for me as I got older – that rocket powered the vision I have and who I am and what I do. I often wake up and say, what can I achieve today, and just go for it!

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