Max Murphy

Head chef Max Murphy from the Malt Shovel at Barston talks us through his love of the kitchen, eagerness to please and one occasion when a customer was very wrong!

Tell us about your cooking

I call it ‘organised rustic charm’. The emphasis is on flavour and the presentation is rustic but in an ordered way. While we have classics on the menu such as a gorgeous steak and chips, I like to put some unusual flavours together too.

Describe your perfect meal

A BBQ shoulder of lamb and homemade coleslaw while relaxing with friends in the sunshine. Plus, a cold beer or a glass of St Clair sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.

How did you become a chef?

Mum had been in the pub trade, so I was influenced by that. I went to Halesowen College and loved it. It was just me and mum so I had to work part-time to earn money to get me through college. I was at Jonathan’s restaurant from the age of 15 and peeled hundreds of carrots putting little grooves down the side which was a bit trendy back then. I used to go home with orange hands. Dad died around this time and one of the bosses at Jonathan’s took me under his wing and nurtured me. Mr Gregory at Halesowen College was also really supportive and helped me a lot.

What do you eat when at home?

Basic stuff but really good quality, so if I have steak or sausages they’re top notch. I also like a good curry.

Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?

Raymond Blanc. He’s so passionate. To grow your own produce, pick and cook it the same day is perfection. In Brum I’d have to say Glynn Purnell. The way he extracts flavour from his food is incredible.

Is the customer always right?

Usually, but there was a customer a couple of weeks ago who sent back a dish because the poached egg was cold. I told the waiter to take it back and explain it’s cold because it’s buffalo mozzarella not an egg!

What’s the best thing about being a chef?

Making people happy. When a customer pops their head round the door and says thank you for a fantastic meal that makes my day.

And the worst thing about being a chef?

The hours, pressure, not seeing my family. You have to enjoy the job to thrive in the kitchen. Chefs definitely do the job for love not money. It’s a tough road.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?

It’s really impossible for me to imagine doing anything else.

What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?

The roasted pork fillet stuffed with chicken, prune, black pudding and pistachio mousse wrapped in parma ham. It’s served with an apple, cider and maple syrup glaze which works brilliantly. (See recipe)

MAX’S RECIPE FOR PORK FILLET, stuffed with pistachios, black pudding and prunes


  • 1 pork fillet
  • ½ cup prunes
  • ½ roll Conacilty black pudding
  • 2 tbsp pistachio
  • 1 skinless chicken breast
  • 6 slices Parma ham
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, chopped and cored
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ cup sweet cider
  • 1 tbsp butter

Trim any fat and sinew from the fillet and flatten out. Season with salt and pepper. Mince black pudding, pistachios, chicken breast, prunes and garlic in a food processor. Place in a bowl and mix to a mousse texture. Spread the mousse over the pork fillet, roll into a sausage shape. Place Parma ham on a board, each slice slightly overlapping. Place pork fillet on top, roll it up into a sausage shape. Wrap tightly in cling film paying attention to the ends and put it in a fridge for at least an hour. Remove the cling film, place on a deep baking tray with the butter, maple syrup, cider and chopped apple and roast for 30 to 35 minutes at 170C, basting every 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven, rest for 10 minutes and serve with celeriac puree and the maple syrup and cider cooking liquor.

Celeriac puree:

  • 1 medium celeriac
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 300ml double cream
  • salt
  • white pepper

Peel and chop the celeriac and add to a pan with double cream and grated garlic. Cook until tender and liquidise with some of the cooking cream. If too thick add more liquid. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Boxout Malt Shovel at Barston, Barston Lane, Barston, Solihull B92 0JP tel: 01675 443223