A career in football or food? Thankfully for all us lovers of fabulous cuisine, the head chef at Michelin-starred Hampton Manor Steve Hearn decided his future was in the kitchen, not on the pitch
Tell us about your cooking
Being responsible for the dedicated events space for a Michelin star-starred restaurant creates fairly hefty expectations from clients, with the added challenge of cooking for up to 120. The biggest part of my job is to take the dishes we’re serving in the restaurant and to recreate them so they can be served for larger numbers while still impressing the guests. We keep our food focused on a few main ingredients and try to avoid too many distractions on the plate. Everything we do is freshly made in-house, so seasonality and the garden-led approach of the restaurant is evident in my cooking.
How did you become a chef?
I started out as a kitchen porter and within six months became a chef. It was a choice between pushing on with football or becoming a chef and I think I made the right choice. My football career would probably have been very short-lived!
What do you eat at home?
When I’m feeding the family I normally cook up a roast to try and get some vegetables down the kids. I also cook a lot of shellfish and enjoy a good oven-roasted camembert.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
Well my brother-in-law is the head chef of Peel’s so I would be in big trouble if I didn’t back him [nervous laugh]. To be fair though, you have to love Glynn Purnell. Rob and I started cooking at the Hilton where Glynn also began his career, so he became a bit of a legend when he won his own Michelin star. The best in the world – I think I need a bigger research budget to make that call!
Is the customer always right?
If you prepare for the unexpected you can normally avoid most challenging customer situations. In our game though you do still meet a fair few wallies and on those occasions you have to protect your team and your business from them.
Share a cooking tip.
Always rest your steak for as long as you’ve cooked it for… so obvious, but so few people do it for long enough.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
Mum’s hotpot of lamb, mushrooms and onions. She is a great chef and now cooks for kids in schools.
Food heaven and food hell?
Heaven is moules-frites with a pint of Carling. Hell is a Caesar salad full of anchovies.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Tim Anderson’s monkfish liver slider – it wasn’t for me.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
A handy man.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
From our event menu I would go for the pork, celeriac and apple. It is a simple dish but full of flavour and delicious.
STEVE’S PORK, CELERIAC AND APPLE
For the pork belly:
Brine for 2 hours (cover the pork in a solution of 100g of salt, 100g of soft brown sugar to 1 litre of water). Flavour the brine by adding thyme and raw garlic. Remove the pork and place in a roasting tray. Place another roasting tray on top to compress and cook for 2.5hrs at 130 degrees C. Chill in the fridge over-night. Next day just portion, seal in a pan (fat side down) until golden brown and heat through in the oven for 8 minutes at 180.
- 1 celeriac
- 100g butter
- 50ml chicken stock
- 100ml milk
Peel and finely slice the celeriac. Cook in the pan with all the ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 to 15minutes. Stir regularly. Once the celeriac is soft, blitz, pass through a sieve and season to taste.
- 1 celeriac
- Equal amounts of shallot, gherkin and capers (approx. 50g each)
- 100g white wine
- 200g chicken stock
Sweat the shallots and celeriac in the pan, put aside and then add the wine to the pan. Reduce by half. Return all the ingredients to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste.
Serve with apple puree, salt baked celeriac and spinach.