The celebrated chef is charged with working his culinary magic on the Centenary Brasserie at the REP. The Yorkshire-born cook talks food, inspiration and how if he hadn’t been a chef, he’d have loved to be a golfer
Tell me about your cooking
I’m really excited by the seasons and treat the ingredients with respect. I don’t overcomplicate food, I maximise flavour. My big thing is British ingredients and as far as possible we achieve that. I’m still finding my feet in Birmingham, so once I get to know the area better we can make it even more local. We’ve just sourced a great local cheese.
Describe your perfect meal
A fruit de mer with a chilled glass of rose somewhere on the Mediterranean coast.
How did you become a chef?
I was always interested in food and in my home town of Scarborough we have a great catering college, so it seemed to make sense. From there I went to the Star Inn in Harome under Andrew Pern. I did my customary stint in London with Gary Rhodes.
What do you eat when at home?
A Sunday roast or a one pot dish. Comfort food really, like a hug on a plate.
Who’s the best chef in the world and who’s the best in Brum?
That’s a difficult question. I’ve been inspired by Gary Rhodes, the Roux family and Thomas Keller. Ferran Adria at El Bulli has opened doors to what once seemed impossible. As for the best chef in Birmingham, I’ve just arrived so I’d rather not ruffle feathers before I’ve even started. The guides speak for themselves though. Four Michelin stars in the city speaks volumes about the thriving restaurant scene here.
Is the customer always right?
Of course, 100 per cent.
What’s the best thing about being a chef?
The creativity and the freedom to express myself. I also enjoy the fact that everyday is different.
What’s the worst thing about being a chef?
Like most chefs I’d say the long hours, but I think you get what you put in and actually as a chef you know what you’re getting into.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
It’s tough to imagine not being a chef, but if I improved my short game the PGA tour would be good.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
Dressed Cornish mackerel with apple and avocado salad or roasted cod, spiced mussel broth and sea vegetables.
ROASTED COD, SPICED MUSSEL BROTH AND SEA VEGETABLES
- 500g cod fillet
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 100g smoked bacon (diced and caramelised till golden)
- One potato (diced)
- One carrot (diced)
- Two celery sticks (diced)
- 50g sweetcorn kernels
- 200g mussels
- 75ml white wine
- A tsp mild curry powder
- 150ml chicken stock
- 50ml crème fraiche
- Lemon juice and seasoning
- Celery leaves for garnish
Optional: Sea purslane, sea fennel, oyster leaves.
Pre heat an oven to 180°c. Add the mussels to a hot pan and immediately pour in the wine, cover the pan and allow the steam to cook the mussels. Once they have all opened remove from the pan and drain but keep the stock. Remove the mussels from the shells and retain till needed (discarding any mussels that have not opened).
Trim the cod fillet and remove any pin bones. Portion the fish into four or ask your fishmonger to do this for you. Oil the skin and season with sea salt. Fry in a medium-hot pan, skin side down for 4-5 minutes till golden, then place in the oven for 5-6 minutes depending on the size.
For the broth, sweat the diced celery in a pan with the oil, add the curry powder and cook for 2 minutes. Add the carrot, potato, corn and bacon and then both the mussel stock and chicken stock. Cook for 3 minutes, add the crème fraiche and continue cooking until all the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened slightly. At this stage add the mussels, stir and season with lemon juice. Remove from heat to avoid overcooking the mussels.
To serve place the creamy broth onto a plate, top with the cod fillet, and garnish with the celery leaves and the sea vegetables.