‘I was always a doer’ – meet Brian Danclair

Simone Richardson meets the much travelled Brian Danclair, who cooked in both the Ritz and the Dogstar before creating Fish, Wings & Tings in Brixton Village and now his new venture, Danclair’s

man in front of wall painting
Brian in front of a striking image of his grandmother Valentina in the new Danclair’s – a collaboration between local artist Morgan Paton, Morganico, and Parisian Aurelie Freoua

“I was born in Trinidad and Tobago and brought up by my grandparents, Valentina and Carlton Cabellero,” says Brian Danclair.

“I spent 19 years in an area called Diego Martin, Woodbrook and Belmont in the Trinidad capital Port of Spain before I migrated to the United States.”

He went to Washington DC to do a degree, but his path changed.

“As a young fella I was always a driver – I would do things – always a ‘doer’,” Brian says.

“I went to a Catholic boys’ school when I was in my teens and then I went to Washington DC where I was for 11 years.

“I went to do a degree in business management, but I never finished, because I felt that the education wasn’t for me – always going into a classroom – and because I didn’t want to get a job in an office.

“I knew at some point I would own my own business, and I loved cooking,” he says.

 “Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, my pastime was gathering with family and friends and cooking.

“I loved cooking – by the beaches, by the rivers. Catch crabs, river crabs, and curry them. Hunting wild animals, including deer.”

His love of cooking moved on with him to Washington DC.

“When I was in Washington DC in school, I started working in a crepes restaurant for a Jewish guy and his French wife.

“They really appreciated me to the point that I was actually babysitting their kids when they went away.

“I worked with them for a year in the crepes restaurant and was given a lot of responsibility. I knew that I had a natural knack for it.

“So that was my first food job – in Washington DC at 20 years old 

man at open air restaurant table
Brian outside Fish, Wings & Tings

“Then I started working in another restaurant for a couple called Jimmy and Sharon Banks 

“They had the first Caribbean restaurant – that was probably the best Caribbean restaurant – in Washington DC.

“They were good to me – and I was good to them. I worked hard for them and I learnt a lot. It opened up my eyes about restaurants.

“Then I made friends with a guy called Yannick Can who was like one of the Michelin star chefs in Washington DC.

“He saw me cooking, and he said: ‘Listen, Don’t waste your time come and work with me’.

“When I worked with him, he had a restaurant called Bistro Provence and that opened up my eyes and my love of Provençal cuisine.

“This is unbelievable food. He had an all-star team. People coming in from Italy, France and Israel.”

Then, 21 years ago, in 2001, Brian was attracted to London – working at The Ritz.

But, he says, “it wasn’t really for me because the system was set up differently and I really wanted to start my own businesses.

“So I also cooked personally for ambassadors and celebrities.”

man outside restaurant
Brian’s new venture is also in Granville Arcade

Brian made South Norwood home for himself and family.

It has been said that most chefs don’t cook once home, but despite cooking all day, Brian confirms that he still enjoys cooking for Ira Contreras, his Venezuelan wife, and children – son Daniel at uni, and daughter Hannah, 14, who “loves playing the piano”.

Brian’s grandmother passed at just over 100 years old and his grandfather is still alive in Trinidad – Brian isn’t sure of his age “as he doesn’t say!”

It seems as if Brian has brought over the beautiful country of Trinidad and Tobago with himself in food and person.

He even coped through the lockdown in London, despite “missing cooking and socialising”.

His positivity is impressive. “We are survivors through the lockdown,” he says. “I bought a property, did some work in there and rented it out through the lockdown, so I kept active.”

chef and servers at door of restaurant
The team at Fish, Wings & Tings (l-r) chef Ronnie, Aaliyah, Rosanna and Patrik

Brian first worked in Brixton in his own cafe called MOCA (MOdern CAribbean) set up above The Dogstar “when Brixton was rough”.

“I know the edginess of Brixton,” he says. “I enjoy it. I enjoy the people here and the people know me.

“I always want to be an example to people here.

“You can come from foreign countries and work hard and get it done. This is a testament to it,” he says in his new venture, Danclair’s.

“I love going to The Ritzy, the night life.

“Here, for me, it is a dynamic of cultures coming together.

“Everybody having a drink together, having a laugh together. If you go to Chelsea you wouldn’t see this.”

Brian enjoys the peace of mind that cooking brings. It’s also when he does his thinking.

“I love just cooking anything. Then I can start thinking. I am more relaxed when I am cooking. I can analyse things much better. Not just thinking about the food. Thinking about anything. How to progress’’

Make sure you progress yourselves down to Brian’s lovely venues at Brixton Village that are well worth visiting for both warmth in atmosphere and food. 

Fish Wings & Tings was set up in 2012, and the new Danclair’s has been open for just over a month.

chef at servers hatch with burger

67–68 Granville Arcade, Brixton Village

Fish, Wings & Tings
34 Granville Arcade, Brixton Village