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Interview: Ousmane Gaye, head chef at Three Crowns pub, Stoke Newington

Fast becoming famous for his ‘Pie of the Week’ dish at the Three Crowns pub in Stoke Newington, head chef Ousmane Gaye (ex-Holborn Dining Room, Roast at Borough Market) tells us why he loves his job and shares his favourite places to hang out in Stoke Newington…

We loved your delicious chicken and tarragon ‘pie of the week’ – with British Pie Week coming up, are there any experimental fillings that you’re keen to test out?

We’ve been working on a pie inspired by a chicken Balti pie you would usually find at the football. We’re reinventing the classic with a twist, using braised duck breast in a Rendang style red curry sauce. Lot of lemongrass, ginger and coconut flavours balance out the rich duck meat and buttery pastry. We’re really happy with it and can’t wait for everyone to try it during British Pie Week.

British pie week
Photo: Harriet Langford

When and why did you decide to become a chef?

I’ve always had a love of cooking. When I was living in house shares with friends I would always be the one cooking and there was no feeling like seeing people enjoy my food. I think cooking is a love from your heart, I’ve always had it and so it felt natural to become a chef. I love entertaining people and making them happy. I’ve never been a desk man so deep down I always knew the kitchen was going to be the place for me.

Which chefs have inspired you in your career?

So many, but I have fond memories of the time I worked for Rowley Leigh. He is a very, very good chef and I admire him a lot.

chef Ousmane Gaye
Photo: Harriet Langford

What do you most love about your job?

Seeing people eat and enjoy my food gives me so much satisfaction. We have an open kitchen at The Three Crowns and that has been amazing for me. Being able to speak to people who have questions about my dishes, or when someone comes and thanks the team and I personally it’s so nice. I love seeing the buzz in the dining room and pub.

What would you order from the menu at the Three Crowns?

I’d have the aubergine salad to start, I’m very proud of that one – the flavours just work so well. Light and fresh. For the main I’d order the pie, every time, and I’d wash it down with a nice glass of Barolo.

Three Crowns pub stoke newington
Photo: Harriet Langford

Where would be your dream place to work?

The Three Crowns! It’s a pleasure to work with people who are unpretentious, genuinely nice people who want to give people the best experiences from the heart. We are always pushing each other to be better and looking after each other, and I think that’s really important. As long as I am working with people with a similar mindset I am happy, although I do have to say I would like to see more sun than we do in Stokey!

What is your favourite thing to cook at home?

That’s a tough question, I cook with the seasons as I like a good deal at the market! Lately I’ve been cooking a Senegalese fish stew that my kids and wife seem to love, if they are happy, I am happy.

What could we normally expect to find in your refrigerator?

Broccoli is my number one. I love broccoli, I cook with it at every opportunity!

Name the 3 kitchen tools you can’t do without?

My knife, sharpener, and a good peeler.

Do you have a guilty pleasure food?

I have a really sweet tooth, I’m trying to cut down but I have a real love for a nice banana bread with chocolate, walnuts and pecans. I wouldn’t say it’s a guilty pleasure but I know I should eat less of it.

Can you share any clever tips for home cooking?

Sometimes the best thing is to just go with the flow, don’t restrict yourself to following recipes step by step! Use substitutes when you are missing something, experiment! I always make the best dishes when I am limited with ingredients and have to adapt.

What advice would you give someone who wants to become a chef?

You have to have the love for cooking in your heart and find your own style, don’t just follow the current trends. The rest is easy, put your head down and let your passion do the rest.

Three Crowns gastro pub east london
Photo: Harriet Langford

If you could cook and eat a meal with any person, dead or alive, who would you choose?

My old friend Abdul that I used to live with in Finsbury park, he used to love food. He wasn’t a chef but when we would cook together it was such a joyous occasion. He would take forever to cook anything, but he had so much love for what he was making, and he just wanted it to be perfect. He passed away a few years ago after moving to Nice in France, we always had such a good time together.

Three Crowns pub
Photo: Harriet Langford

Do you have any favourite local bars and restaurants? (apart from the Three Crowns of course!)

The team and I went for dinner at Wander not too long ago and I was so impressed. It’s a small restaurant just down the road from The Three Crowns with a regularly changing set menu, I was blown away! It’s a one-woman show and Alexis the chef-owner did everything from hosting, to cooking, to clearing. The food was delicious, and she was so warm and welcoming. It was amazing. I’m also a big fan of Escoceca on Church Street, Stacey (our owner) and I have been a few times for the £1 oysters after work on a Monday. The atmosphere in there is a joy and you can feel the passion for what they do in every dish.
175 Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 0LH


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