Didier Philipot has already made a name for himself in the city with his classical cooking style, which uses the best seasonal ingredients. We catch up with him as he undertakes his new role as head chef at Edmunds
Did you always set out to be a chef?
As far back as I can remember. I trained in France from the age of 12 working with a charcutier traiteur. Then I went to a hotel business school and a number of different establishments in Paris, including the Fauchon and the Ritz. I worked at a number of five star hotels and was head chef at Brockencote Hall for 10 years. In 2000, I opened La Toque d’Or in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. Hard work and passion have got me where I am today.
Who taught you to cook?
In the early days, my grandmother, then many chefs along the way have guided me. Chefs such as Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse taught me a lot.
How would you describe your cooking?
Classical and seasonal with a modern twist. The quality of the produce is a must for me.
What do you think of the advance of science in cooking?
I believe it’s great as it pushes the boundaries, but it’s got to be left in expert hands to avoid disaster.
What do you think of the rise of the celebrity chef?
It’s great to be recognised for your work. It helps bring young talent into the industry and opens the mind of the general public to new things.
How do you persuade people to come to your restaurant?
Quality, value for money, honest cooking and top produce. Our menu du jour reflects all of that.
How do you find your suppliers?
I use some of the same suppliers that I began buying from near the beginning of my career 20 years ago. I am also very involved in the countryside which helps me to find new products.
Which chefs do you admire?
The best ones are those who are still cooking at the stove with their name above the door each service. You can’t beat that.
What are your top three cookbooks?
Larousse’s Gastronomique, Escoffier and Pate and Terrine.
What do you cook for yourself at home?
Food which is simple, fresh and honest. What is your favourite comfort food? Full English breakfast for brunch with all the best countryside ingredients.
What would your last meal on Earth be?
I hope that’s not coming soon, but a fantastic feast of my most loved dishes, wines and liqueurs with my friends and family around me.
Do your friends cook for you?
Only the brave ones do. My future mother-inlaw does a great roast lamb dinner followed by a marvellous English pudding – that’s always a treat.
Do you get the chance to eat out locally, and where do you head?
Not as much as I would like as we have two young children and family time comes first. Living around Chaddesley Corbett and Belbroughton, we tend to stay local. Batham’s pub is always good before a family dinner at home. If we go out, we generally go to a Chinese restaurant, where it’s less formal and there’s good food too.
Do you cook with your children?
My son Theo cooks with me, sitting on the side of the stove, asking millions of questions.We have great time together.We grow our own vegetables and fruit too. It’s always good for them to learn from a tender age.
How do you relax?
I really enjoy gardening and growing my own food, watching cricket with the locals and seeing friends who are not in the trade helps.
Where are your favourite places?
Roger Narbett always looks after us at The Chequers in Cutnall Green. Nick Pike at The Retreat, Old Swinford is always there to please. The Talbot in Belbroughton serves superb organic produce cooked in a simple way and it has a great host called Steve Savva – you can’t beat Greek hospitality.
If you weren’t a chef, what might you have done?
All my family on my dad’s side were in the army and my brother had a long career in the forces too. I did my national service in the air force and sometimes think that maybe I would have stopped there.
What’s your dream other job?
A food critic. I don’t think you can beat it when you love great food, service and wine. Even if you don’t have to experience the bad side of the job.
What would you like to be remembered for?
For pleasing people with my cooking.