Who's Cooking Dinner? 2015

Fifteen years ago a chef was contacted and asked to donate two of his cookbooks for a charity launched at Hammersmith Hospital Oncology Department. Now, along with legendary restaurateur Chris Coburn (The Ivy, Le Caprice, The Wolseley), Peter Gordon sets about running what he calls 'the greatest culinary achievement' in his career.

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That's saying a lot considering Peter currently runs establishments in New Zealand, Istanbul and London, and has a career spanning over 20 years. Tonight will mark the 15th Annual ‘Who’s Cooking Dinner’ and will see 20 chefs create 20 menus, 80 plates and 80 matching wines, all in the small confines of the Four Seasons Hotel kitchen.

This was one of the first events to create an element of surprise around the meal itself. Each chef will pull a name out of a hat to decide who they’re cooking for on the night, then it’s on for young and old as one of the busiest and most frantic services in London kicks off!

Luck of the draw dictates who will be eating bespoke menus from Phil Howard, Marcus Wareing, Tong Chee Hwee, Bruce Poole, Peter Gordon, Clare Smyth, Nuno Mendes, Brett Graham, The Galvin Brothers, Francesco Mazzei, or any of the world class culinary giants that will grace the room tonight!

The aim is to raise funds for Leuka who are leaders in leukaemia and blood cancer research. This disease has touched both Peter, a donor for his sister, and Chris, who was diagnosed with the illness himself. Both patients in question survived to fight another day, but unfortunately there are still many who suffer from the disease.

Hopefully, we are not too far from finding a cure. That is the feeling amongst all the guests, chefs and volunteers that have come together tonight to move a step closer to reaching this goal.

Different dishes are plated up across the pass
Despite the sheer number of chefs in the kitchen there were no trips or spillages!

Eliot Collins: behind the scenes at Who's Cooking Dinner?

As I sat in the staff quarters at the Four Seasons waiting for the 20 chefs to arrive, I started to take on board what it's like to run a quadruple kitchen pass with 20 chefs at the helm.

It’s 3pm and Hix Chef Kevin Gratton is lining his stomach with a well-executed club sandwich and fries as he prepares to expedite what will be deliciously organised chaos!

Kevin has spent 10 years with Caprice Holdings, been head chef at Scott's, and was there when Marco Pierre-White opened Canteen in Chelsea back in '92, so as you can imagine he was a perfect candidate for the job. His analysis of the night summed up the chaos perfectly:

'Having worked on restaurant passes around the world – this is something I'm thinking will be quite different. There’s nothing like it. The pace of service is quicker and you're sending dishes that you don’t know. It’s an entirely logistical exercise.'

His comrade on the pass was well-seasoned event founder, Peter Gordon (Providores & Tapa Room), who also had the task of briefing and pulling into line 20 very different culinary personalities. I asked Peter’s permission to squeeze into the kitchen for the entirety of service, my concern being that I’d be a human traffic cone. However, he reassured me that every man and his dog are in there anyway so one more wouldn't matter!

It was an electric atmosphere – smooth, well-paced, but with a frantic undercurrent - what you'd expect from 10 private dining rooms all being served under one roof by 20 chefs. It was a truly self-sufficient collaboration, with each chef bringing in their own teams, tools and trade professionals.

Pack up your truffles in your old kit bag: Alyn Williams on kitchen takeovers
Lawrence Keogh (The Wolsley) puts the finishing touches to his beautifully plated starter dish
A striking lamb dish by Brett Graham (The Ledbury)

Watching this family of talented cooks banging pans within the same four walls is a rare experience to say the least. From the silent perfection of Hakkasan’s Chef Tong, to Phil Howard’s (The Square) calm, culinary complexity, it was a cross-fertilisation of London’s finest.

The Italian stallions were led by the charismatic Francesco Mazzei (L'Anima) and Giorgio Locatelli (Locanda Locatelli), while classic perfectionists Jeff Galvin, Bruce Poole and Claude Bosi were all sharing an oven.

It's unlikely that I will ever again watch Nuno Mendes plate up beside Clare Smyth, Jason Atherton garnishing dishes under Marcus Wareing’s curious eye, or Alan Barrins (Corrigan's of Mayfair) creating wholesome fine fare alongside Tom Kerridge’s 2 Michelin-starred pub grub. Never to be forgotten!

So many brilliant chefs have cooked over the years; in 2015 the guests were graced with the presence of Jason Atherton, Rainer Becker, Claude Bosi, Tong Chee Hwee, Sally Clarke, Richard Corrigan, Jeff Galvin, Peter Gordon, Brett Graham, Mark Hix, Phil Howard, Tim Hughes, Lawrence Keogh, Tom Kerridge, Giorgio Locatelli, Francesco Mazzei, Nuno Mendes, Bruce Poole, Clare Smyth and Marcus Wareing.

A huge thank you and congratulations to Isla and the team at Leuka, Peter Gordon, Chris Coburn, Russell Norman, Olive Boles, Robert Holland, Hannah Lewis, Suling Mead, Maureen Mills, Marian Scrutton, Katheryn Pretzel-Shiels, Seb Fogg, Michelle Chillingworth and the Four Seasons Hotel. The next Who's Cooking Dinner event is scheduled to take place on 7th March 2016.