The head chef at West Bromwich Albion, is on a mission to change the way we think about football cuisine
Tell me about you cooking
Fresh British produce excites me. It doesn’t matter whether your cheese comes from down the road or Lancashire, as long as it’s great British produce. We’re trying to take football catering and turn it into restaurant quality. We aim to provide a great day out, with a fantastic football team and a dining experience.
How did you become a chef?
I was a pot washer in my friend’s restaurant when I was 14, but officially I started out when I was 16, prepping potatoes and vegetables. I then went to a bar and grill in Birmingham and also worked at The Orange Tree in Chadwick End, run by Paul Salisbury. I have worked at TGI Fridays, Moseley Golf Club and did contract catering at Wilson Vale. I then went away for a while and started an apprenticeship in teaching at Birmingham College of Food. I still teach there two days a week now.
Describe your perfect meal
I was in Padstow recently and had quality fish and chips while overlooking the harbour – simply fantastic. I also like an eight-course tasting menu, working your way through soups, salads, offals, meats and desserts. I think you taste the food and the quality of the food more than you would if you were to have a two-course meal. You can eat two courses and feel stuffed, while you can have eight and just feel comfortable, as the focus is on quality rather than quantity.
What do you eat when at home?
I like stews, cottage pie and lasagne, but my favourite thing is a fish finger sandwich. I make homemade tartar sauce which I keep in the fridge, and I use thick crusty bread from the bakery.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why, and who’s the best in Birmingham?
One of my favourites is American chef Anthony Bourdain. He’s done a lot of travelling and has been to some amazing places tasting local produce wherever he goes. He wrote Kitchen Confidential – any proper chef should have read this. For Birmingham, I’d say Glyn Purnell. I’ve eaten there and his food is very Brummie orientated and local. He puts a funny spin on his food, it’s quite quirky.
Is the customer always right?
Yes – I always want customer feedback, as it’s the only way the company and I can get better.
What’s the best thing about being a chef?
Working with some fantastic produce, you get to learn something new every day, you’re always learning. I don’t think you’d get that working in an office staring at the computer every day. By talking to visitors and suppliers, you’re always coming up with new tips and things to try.
What’s the worst thing about being a chef?
The hours. We’ve taken mediocre hospitality and really raised the level of the food. That high standard means lots more work. We make our own stocks, sauces, everything is made from scratch. I’m used to it though. Anyone going into the industry needs to be prepared for that.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
A fireman. From a child, I loved the fire service. It was one of the main options growing up and I was really interested in it.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
We’ve got match day on Saturday so I’d recommend a Screw Ball – bubblegum panna cotta, vanilla ice cream, a raspberry crisp and cotton candy. It’s something a bit different; you wouldn’t typically get that at a football match.