Chef Gary Foulkes is using his experiences abroad to sate the appetites of east London diners. The 37-year-old and lawyer wife Sarah both quit successful jobs and jetted off backpacking for three years after they got married.

The couple ate their way across 12 countries including Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico.

Gary is now using the experience as inspiration in his new role of executive chef at D And D-owned South Place Hotel near Liverpool Street where he oversees all its food and is at the helm of Michelin-starred seafood restaurant, Angler .

“Travelling is something everyone should do before they settle down,” said Gary who lives in Islington.

“South East Asia is amazing. I learnt just as much there, watching people and eating and tasting, as I did in the previous seven years in the kitchen.”

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Gary is making his mark at Angler serving up dishes such as thinly sliced octopus with citrus dressing, taramasalata and chipirones and salsola with Gariguette strawberries, Brillat-Savarin cream, black olive and basil.

Gary's responsibilities include Michelin-starred Angler on top of the hotel

“I have an eclectic mix of ingredients,” he said. “I use British produce but with an Asian influence.

“When I was travelling in Japan I got a recipe from a chef for an amazing dashi, which I serve with Cornish turbot and squid.

“I use a lot of things like shiseido vinegar and leaves and white soy, things to season apart from salt.”

Raised in Liverpool, he said his first influence in the kitchen was his mum. But his first memory of food was his granddad’s traditional scouse stew.

A school work experience placement at a hotel sparked his passion for the “energy” of the kitchen and he became a trainee at the Chester Grosvenor and then worked for Gary Rhodes for two years in Manchester.

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“Rhodes is a fabulous cook with a really great palate and also a really nice bloke and great teacher,” said Gary. “He taught me how to do things properly and not cut corners.”

Moving to London when he was 19, he worked with chefs including John Campbell at The Vineyard At Stockcross and then landed a job as sous chef at two Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant, The Square before going travelling.

A return to the fold

Carte blanche: Gary's been left to express himself through his food by D And D

People thought we were insane because I had a very good job and Sarah had a good job,” said the father-of-one. “But we just went with the flow.”

His gamble paid off when The Square asked him to return as head chef, a role he did for three years before deciding he wanted a change.

“Specialising in fish gives you a lot more to think about,” he said of moving to Angler to lead a team of 14.

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“I got to the point where I wanted to completely express myself through what I cook. When this opportunity came up I couldn’t miss it as they have given me carte blanche.

“I have taken a lot of inspiration from my travelling. When I went to the fish market in Japan they had a sign saying: ‘Today, 253 type of sea creatures’. It was just incredible, people live and breath it, and that was infectious.”

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