The head chef at the Birmingham Hippodrome tells us how he competes with those on the stage to produces star performances of his own
Tell me about your cooking
I prefer to cook food that is in season, so I use as many local suppliers and producers as possible. I like my food to be clean and have depth of flavour, as well as being balanced and aesthetically pleasing. Classic cooking is still under pinning modern cooking and this really excites me. They are classics for a reason.
Describe your perfect meal
A very well made gin and tonic always starts the meal off well. Tanqueray 10/Plymouth is a must. To eat I’d have chicken Liver Parfait, brioche and fruit chutney to start followed by rib-eye steak, homemade chips and béarnaise sauce, finished off with homemade good quality dark chocolate ice cream. A nice bottle of Ravenswood’s Lodi County Zinfandel 2001 is a winner. I really like to relax when I’m eating out. I find myself trying to over analyse, so simple food done well makes for a perfect evening.
How did you become a chef?
From an early age I had a keen interest in cooking and it became relatively easy for me as I progressed through Birmingham College of Food. My family have always been hugely supportive of me during my career from training, owning my own restaurant and now here at Birmingham Hippodrome.
What do you eat when at home?
I tend to try and eat as often as possible with my wife and three children, so they dictate meals to a certain degree. As long as meals are healthy and balanced I’m happy.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
There are a lot of leading chefs across the globe, so I would find it difficult to narrow it down to a couple never mind single one chef out. Locally, again there are several leading chefs such as Steve Love, Adam Stokes, Richard Turner, Glynn Purnell, Brad Carter, Luke Tipping and Aktar Islam. All have their own styles and strengths and contribute to putting Birmingham well and truly on the culinary map. But currently I would say Turner’s of Harborne.
Is the customer always right?
What’s the best thing about being a chef?
Every day is very different and has its own challenges. It can be very rewarding, even things as simple as making a great dish, to bigger things such as competing and winning awards. Choosing the correct job also allows you to have a larger range of freedom and creativity, which is ultimately a chef’s desire.
What’s the worst thing about being a chef?
A major con is that menus and dishes you produce tend to be very personal to you. It can be demoralising after all the hard work you put in if it doesn’t make the customer as happy as you would like.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I currently enjoy playing football for my local AFA team in the goalkeeper position, so I would like to think if I hadn’t chosen my cooking there may have been a career in football career for me to take.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
Local lamb two ways with savoy cabbage, fondant potatoes and stewed shallots with a glass of nice red Bordeaux or perhaps a netted Rioja, as long as the wine is matured but full flavoured.
Local lamb two ways with savoy cabbage, fondant potatoes and stewed shallots
- Lamb neck fillet
- 227g rump of lamb
- 300g savoy cabbage
- 2 banana shallots
- 100ml double cream
- 300ml good red wine
- 1 carrot roughly chopped
- 2 celery sticks roughly chopped
- 1 leek roughly chopped
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 4 rooster potatoes
- 300g salted butter
- 300ml chicken stock
- 200g curly kale
- Cooking oil
Trim the lamb fillet and cut it in half. Place in a pressure cooker with the carrot, celery, leeks, thyme and red wine and cook for about 1½ hours until tender. To make the sauce, reduce the cooking liquor, season to taste and set aside.
To make the potatoes, cut the fondants out of the potatoes using an apple corer, and wash. Place in a saucepan with the melted butter and chicken stock and simmer gently until tender and the cooking liquor has reduced (about 15 minutes).
Peel the leaves off the cabbage, remove the stalk and finely shred. Cook in a little oil and butter on a low heat until fully tender, then add the 50ml of double cream and reduce. Set aside and keep warm.
Peel and finely slice the shallots and cook in oil until they caramelise. Add a dash of water to lift the sugars from the pan then add 50ml cream and reduce. Set aside to keep warm.
In a hot pan seal the lamb rump on all sides and place in a hot oven about 180-200°c for eight to nine minutes. Allow to rest for at least five minutes, then season.
Blanch the kale in a pan of boiling salted water for two minutes. Drain and then toss in melted butter, season and set aside. Cut the lamb rump in half and allow to carry on resting whist plating the dish. Place the creamed cabbage in the centre of a large plate, then place the lamb neck on top. Place the fully rested lamb rump alongside with the stewed shallots on top. Put the kale between the two cuts of meat and dot 3-4 of the fondant potatoes around the dish.
Finish with a little of the reduced red wine cooking liquor and enjoy.