Head chef at Nailcote Hall, Neil Peers likes to live dangerously
Did you always set out to be a chef?
I decided I wanted to be a chef at about 14 when I realised I was good at what I was doing. After college, I did five years at Manor Hotel Meriden, before spending two years at Solihull Moat House when the team gained two AA rosettes – although I was only a little junior sous chef then! My friend, who’s another head chef and I then re-opened a pudding club in Mickleton. It was a little bit different. I then spent another year at Billesley Manor Hotel before joining Washbourne Court in Lower Slaughter; my first position as a head chef. However I’m most proud of my stint at Swinfern Hall Hotel where I developped the restaurant from scratch to gaining two rosettes and four AA red stars. I then worked in a few other restaurants as a head chef but had to take six months out after a motorbike accident. I broke 48 bones after hitting a car and then a house. I’ve been at Nailcote Hall now for about 15 months.
Who inspired you to cook?
The Roux brothers and Marco Pierre White. I didn’t want to be as good as them but when I was 16, they were the big names around. My mum’s a normal house cook – very good, but not one for posh fancy dinners.
How would you describe your cooking?
Modern, but we do some old classics with a modern twist like Steak Diane.
How are you persuading people to eat out?
With difficulty! At weekends, we have Live at the Hall where we have bands on and that brings people to look at everything else we offer. Nailcote’s beautifully situated and very old. On Wednesdays, we offer a three-course dinner with a bottle of wine for £30. We call it Happy Wednesday – but it’s not happy for the chefs! It can be very busy, especially with residents to cater for as well. We can do more than 50 covers in a night.
How are price rises affecting your ingredients?
It’s not affecting my GDP but there is a noticeable price increase on everything. I keep my eye on things. We’ve got some really good suppliers, including Aubrey Allen. We also have local vegetable and cheese suppliers in the area. A lot comes from previous jobs or word of mouth. Or they pop in or call. I try and accommodate people coming to see me. I try and use higher quality produce.
What do you cook for yourself at home?
Not a fat lot, I’ve got a wife to do that! I like chicken so I like a good Sunday roast. I always try and get as many Sundays off as I can.
What’s your favourite comfort food?
Chocolate – all sorts, except dark chocolate. I can sit and scoff a family sized bag of M&M’s in minutes and I can polish off a two-litre tub of ice cream in minutes too.
Do you eat out locally?
I don’t eat out that much as I have two kids to drag around with me! My friends own two restaurants, both called Essence. One’s in Alcester and one in Stratford and they’re very good. I also love Purnells and I get on well with Glynn as he’s a fellow Blues supporter. It’s probably my favourite restaurant in the country – when I can afford it!
How do you relax?
Simply taking time out. With two kids, you can never truly relax. We just potter around. I used to have hobbies before my accident – motor bikes and golfing but I can’t do those now. I’d say my car is my hobby and collecting cookery books. I’ve got thousands.
What cookery books would you recommend?
I’d recommend Essence by the head chef at Champignon Sauvage and I love Heston Blumenthal’s books. His food is different but there are recipes you can doctor so you can do them yourself.
If you held a dinner party, who would you invite?
My friends and family – got to have my parents, my brother and his wife but celebrity wise, I’d have John Bishop as you’d be sure to have a laugh. I’d also have Chris Moyles as I listen to his show every morning on the way to work. George Clooney as well – he just looks so sophisticated. John Bishop would be at one end of the table telling dirty jokes, and George wouldn’t know what to do with himself.
If you weren’t a chef, what might you have done?
I don’t know, never thought about it. Maybe something to do with a bar or a nightclub. I like the idea of a preclub bar where I’d serve food till about six and then it would just be drinks and fun.