At the age of 15, Brendan Collins quit secondary school to follow his dream and enroll in culinary school, where he was classically trained in French technique. By 17, the talented Nottingham native had his first job at London’s Le Gavroche, a Michelin two-star restaurant. He continued to hone his skills at several of London’s finest gastronomic temples, including The Café Royal, The Heights, and Pied et Terre. Collins took on his first executive chef position at The Calls Grill in Leeds. Under his leadership, the fledgling dining room received the prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand in 1999. Shortly thereafter, Collins returned to London to serve as sous chef at Oxo Tower Restaurant before accepting the position as sous for celebrity chef Marco Pierre White at Quo Vadis where Collins would garner one Michelin Star and earn a reputation as one of London’s rising culinary stars. In 2002, at the behest of celebrated chef Josiah Citrin, Collins moved to Los Angeles to work as chef de cuisine at Citrin’s Melisse Restaurant. Collins spent four years at Melisse in Santa Monica, which earned the Mobile Four Star Rating each year and became one of California’s first Michenlin two-star rated dining destinations during his tenure. Collins left Melisse to open and serve as executive chef at Mesa in Orange County. The restaurant enjoyed great critical and popular success with him at the helm. Collins then returned to Santa Monica to open Anisette with Alain Giraud, but soon after, he was lured away by an offer to become executive chef of The Hall at Palihouse, where he would solidify his unique culinary style, gain a fan following, and win critical acclaim. Today, Collins is the Executive Chef and Proprietor at Waterloo & City in Culver City, California. Drawing on his training in butchery and belief in using the whole animal, Collins is dedicated to using only the best ingredients and cooking food that he likes to eat. He combines impeccable French He combines impeccable French technique, seasonal California ingredients, and his inimitable”British lad” attitude to create a cuisine that is at once comforting and exciting, while maintaining a relaxed, English pub atmosphere.
On Japanese Knives
I think the beauty of Japanese knives is quite appealing.There is so much rich history behind the art of Japanese knife making and they do it far better than anybody else. The way the knives are designed, the hardness of the steel, and the general balance and beauty makes them the perfect knives for professional chefs. The fact that in general Japanese knives have great edge retention and are quite easy to maintain is something I can appreciate as a chef. When I first started cooking German knives were very popular. It wasn’t till later on in my career that I was first exposed to Japanese knives. Moving to America and specifically to Los Angeles gave me a lot more access to Japanese knives. My love of Japanese knives began when I bought my first Japanese knife and the great experience I had using them. I became hooked on them from that moment and I bought several ever since. In fact my entire knife kit is Japanese knives. Starting out my knives were always double-edged but as soon as I learned the beauty of single edged knives, I even started turning my double edged knives into single edged knives. I generally go towards western style Japanese knives because I prefer the handles, there is something about the comfortability of the handles that I still prefer to this day. I’m not a big fan of having a kit full of knives. I tend to have four Japanese knives I use consistently, a 12” chef’s knife, an excellent boning knife, a phenomenally sharp slicing knife, and just to finish it all off I have a paring knife. With those four knives you can pretty much take care of any dish or preparation that you need to do. If you are able to invest in the top quality of those four different knives in your knife kit, whether you’re doing fine dining or café food you will be able to execute any preparation with ease and precision. I think in general there is a technique that has to be adhered to in any cooking whether you cooking gastro pub food or fine dining cuisine. The fact of the matter is that if you want profitability and you want an exceptionally good cut whether it is meat, vegetables, or fish then you must have an excellent quality knife. With the amount of experience I have and the profound love I have for this industry, knives play a huge role and Japanese knives happen to be my knife of choice.
I knew from a very young age, since I was 11years old that I was going to be a chef. My parents owned and operated pubs back in England and I always gravitated to the kitchens in the back. I knew from an early age how important good food and cooking was. My grandfather was as old school as old school gets, he had his own green house, orchard, and chickens and pigeons which helped me appreciate the difference in quality in ingredients. Food was always in my life and I always wanted to be in it. After graduating from cooking school at 17 I moved to straight to London, I began working at Michelin Star rated Restaurants, including Gavroche and Café Royale. My ten years of cooking in England were all at Michelin Star rated restaurants, after which I moved to Melisse in Santa Monica as the chef de Cuisine for 4 years. While I was there Michelin had decided to come to Los Angeles and Melisse was one of the first restaurants to be awarded 2 Michelin Stars on the West Coast. Michelin has always been my background but I wanted to cook food that had Michelin standards and was still affordable. My idea was to open up a gastro pub with a relaxed and joyous atmosphere where you can eat really excellent cuisine or you could just go and get a pint and a pot pie if that’s what you so choose.
I look to past, present, and future when I’m cooking. A lot of is instinct, when you have enough experience a lot of food comes from instinct, and the majority of it comes from mother nature and the change of seasons, after which it is the result of a lot of refining and technique. We have had a dish, a peach and burrata salad that has been on the menu and every year it takes on a new form as it evolves from season to season. I have also started running my kitchens differently in that I utilize my team to collaborate on developing dishes. We will sit down and do tastings and decide on what’s working and what’s not working and in that way you bring the creativity of an entire team rather than the creativity of one person. I find that we can refine dishes more efficiently and achieve more consistency because everyone is involved and that also brings out the confidence of the entire team. I feel that some dishes are more of a team effort and I also like to put a European style into what I do because I am a European trained chef and thankfully it has all worked out very well.