The executive head chef at the Marco Pierre White steakhouse Chris Haynes reveals a passion for… fish! And a dislike of cucumber – and alligator’s tail
Tell us about your cooking.
I love to produce good honest food – food for everyone that’s just cooked correctly and with real care and attention. It’s important to embrace modern techniques but it’s equally important not to go over the top. It’s vital to keep ingredients seasonal and although MPW is renowned for steaks, I have a particular passion for fish. I think it takes real skill to get it just right. I’ve loved seafood ever since childhood on family holidays to Brittany.
How did you become a chef?
The whole family was brought up with a love for food. My amazing mum and dad were both chefs and met while working at the Midland Hotel, which at the time was Michelin-starred and one of the finest venues in the north-west. They were always chatting to me and my brothers about food, produce and ingredients, generally encouraging us to try new things. From a very young age I knew that I just wanted to be a cook. I did really well at catering college and got all the classical training, then I cut my teeth at Mere Golf Resort and Spa followed by an incredibly inspiring time working for two Michelin-starred Giorgio Locatelli in London before returning to Manchester and The French at the Midland Hotel.
What do you eat when at home?
I know us chefs have a terrible reputation for not eating well outside of work and I’m just as bad! I tend to eat out a lot with my girlfriend and if I’m not working on a Sunday I’ll always have a roast. I do love a bit of egg and chips too!
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
I really admire Marcus Wareing and Tom Kerridge. It’s amazing what Tom has done for the industry by winning a Michelin star with producing stunning food in a pub environment. The cooking scene in Birmingham is amazing, far better than up in Manchester, with loads of cracking chefs. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better meal than recently at Carters in Moseley.
Is the customer always right?
Customer service demands mean that the customer will always be right. If someone’s worked hard all week to enjoy a night out then it’s absolutely their choice if they want a well done steak or the lamb cooked through. It’s painful for me sometimes though!
Share a cooking tip
It’s best to focus on seasonal produce rather than being obsessively local. And be brave; try those oysters and mussels. Get stuck into shellfish!
What was your favourite food as a kid?
My mum’s shepherd’s pie. Simply unbeatable and I really miss both, my mum and her pie.
Food heaven and food hell?
Heaven is new season lamb. Hell is cucumber – I just can’t get on with it.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
I tried alligator’s tail in Florida. A cross between pork and chicken and not as good as either.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I was pretty artistic at school so I reckon I’d be an architect. I love to design and build, so not too dissimilar to being a chef.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
We have a lovely swordfish dish with new potatoes and baby spinach, but I’d suggest a really good ribeye steak.
Chris’s Recipe for Grilled Swordfish Steak with Sauce Vierge, Baby Fennel and New Potatoes
Ingredients For one
- Swordfish Steak
- One portion of new potatoes – cut into quarters
- Olive Oil
- One head of baby fennel
- Fresh Parsley
- Coriander seeds
- One tomato
- Basil leaves
- Lemon juice
- Salt and Pepper
Pop on a pan with some water, heat to a boil and season with salt and pepper. While this is heating, cut new potatoes into quarters. Once the water has boiled, add the new potatoes.
Have a pan set on a medium heat, and pop a knob of butter in the pan with a splash of olive oil and carefully place your swordfish in the pan. Season well with salt and pepper. Cook until tender and soft.
To make the Sauce Vierge, peel one tomato and take out the seeds. Roughly chop the tomato into medium sized pieces and set aside. Next, crush a handful of coriander seeds in a pestel and mortor. Then set a small pan on a low to medium heat and gently toast. Once toasted, remove and set aside. Now, mix one tablespoon of lemon juice with 4 table spoons of olive oil with salt and pepper. Add this to a warm pan set on a medium heat. Finally, add the chopped tomato, a couple of roughly chopped basil leaves and the crushed coriander seeds to the warming lemon and oil mixture and gently warm though.
Set another pan of water on to boil and season with salt and pepper. Once the water has boiled, place the baby fennel into the boiling water for 45 seconds until just tender. Remove the fennel when this is done and place on a plate.
The potatoes should now be tender, drain the potatoes and add them to a pan set on a medium heat with a little butter for a few minutes.
Place the fennel on a plate, with the new potatoes scattered around it. Next place the swordfish carefully on top of the fennel and finally add the sauce all around the plate. To garnish, just roughly chop a few parsley leaves and place on top of the dish.