What were you like as a child? “I was very quiet. I have an older brother and sister and a younger sister. I had a normal upbringing, nothing glamorous. I grew up on a housing estate in Surrey [in southeast England], which was not very exciting. The only thing that comes out of Surrey is Harry Potter, so I left home at 16 and moved to London.” What was it like moving to London at such a young age? “Hard. I didn’t think about it at the time. But I knew if I wanted to cook that’s what I had to do. I had to leave home because I wanted to work in the best restaurants in the world.” When did you know you wanted to be a chef? “I think I was around 13, but I don’t know why – my father and mother don’t care about food and wine at all.” Where did you learn how to cook? “At the time, Jamie Oliver was popular on TV and cooking shows were really popular, and I just started watching those. My parents are divorced, and my mum worked two jobs so we had to cook for ourselves. I guess that’s where it started. “The first things I cooked were terrible. I remember being hard on myself and getting so upset about it. I recall making pasta at a very young age, and I used to cook every Sunday, like a roast. I would use Oliver’s cookbooks a lot because his food is quite approachable. “When I was 15, during my school holidays, I went to work in a restaurant in London called the Neal Street Restaurant by chef Antonio Carluccio. Oliver trained there. I spent four weeks of my holiday working there, for free, then I went back to school and I knew what I wanted to do.” What was it about Oliver that you liked? “He inspired a generation of cooks in the UK. There are a lot of people I work with now that were inspired by him. He brought a sense of access. It was cool, it was fun. He made it so there was no stigma around cooking and wearing an apron. “I met him once, when I was about 15 or 16. We went to this BBC Good Food Show in London. I was nervous. I’ve never cooked for him though, or Gordon Ramsay. I’d love to cook for both of them.” You’ve had a big 12 months, with Belon named fourth on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. What’s been your biggest achievement? “I’ve been lucky that everything I’ve wanted to achieve I have achieved so far. I worked at Per Se [for Thomas Keller, in New York] and I got the Employee of the Year, which is something I really wanted. It’s a small thing, but out of the whole restaurant group in New York it was a nice thing to win. “I was made sous chef there at a very young age, 23. I was the youngest chef ever to get that for Thomas. I think I still am, which is quite cool. After that, I wanted to cook fish at Le Bristol, in Paris, and eventually I worked hard enough and I was given the position, although I didn’t speak much French. “When I took over Belon [as head chef in 2017], it was not doing well. It was very hard to get people to change their minds and eat here again. So I would say going from this restaurant, which was empty, to turning it into what it is today , that’s probably my biggest achievement.” Your food is known for its precision and detail. How much of that is in your nature and how much have you learned? “It is a bit of both. Precision for me is correct. There’s no point in doing anything if it’s not correct. My father was a police officer and a marine for a while. He’s very particular. He’s particular about the way he makes sandwiches, he’s insane. That’s probably rubbed off on me. “But I also love detail. I love going somewhere and seeing the detail in the silverware, the glassware, the tabletop. And I think that extends to my whole life and reflects in my food. “My first professional job was at The Ivy [in London] and while that was not about attention to detail, what they did, they did well. They did 300 covers a night, it was fully booked for six months and it was a celebrity hang-out. “I worked for Shane Osborn at [London’s two-Michelin-star] Pied à Terre – he now has Arcane [in Central] – and that was the first time I saw any sense of detail, where you are tasting the water for the amount of salt and sugar before you cook your broad beans or your asparagus, and you would have to get him to taste the water before you cooked vegetables – that’s attention to detail. But then I moved to Per Se and learned attention to detail in the way you work. And that just transforms everything.” Does your trait of being a perfectionist carry into other parts of your life? “My apartment is not that tidy most of the time, but I wish it was. I used to be left-handed but my father made me change to be right. I think he thought it was easier in the world to be right-handed. My handwriting is terrible, so I always try to write a little bit better. “I strive to be better at everything I do. I don’t want to cook forever in the kitchen. But I want to achieve certain things before I stop, so there are other elements of my life I’d like to do better at. I’d like to learn more languages, I’d like to learn a musical instrument, there’s more to life sometimes than being perfect.” Daniel Calvert is leaving Belon at the end of this month. His new restaurant is scheduled to open next summer at the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi.