Tom Shepherd

Born in Sutton Coldfield, Tom Shepherd has worked in some of the UK’s finest kitchens, including Adam’s in Birmingham, before launching his own restaurant Upstairs by Tom Shepherd in Lichfield in 2021 where he was awarded a Michelin star only four months after opening.

Tom is also one of three new trustees to join the board of ambitious national charity Kids’ Village. The charity is raising £5million to build the UK’s first holiday village to provide free breaks for critically ill children and their families in Wychnor.

Tell us about your cooking

I’d describe my style of cooking as seasonal-led, flavour-focused and a concentrated classic style of cooking. New seasons always excite me as it produces a change of direction with your food and breathes fresh life into the kitchen. It’s important we are led by the seasons, as it’s much more sustainable to eat a product that is in season here in the UK at the right time, as opposed to eating an ingredient from another country, out of season.

How did you become a chef?

I sort of fell into it really. I was offered a trainee manager’s position at New Hall Hotel, Walmley when I was 17, and part of the programme was to spend time in the kitchen. The head chef was Wayne Thomson, someone I owe a lot to. He saw something in me that no one else did, I was always determined and hungry to succeed, I just hadn’t found the right platform to really express that. Wayne urged me to consider becoming a chef as he clearly saw my potential. I spent three years with Wayne and that learning was an integral part of where I am today. My family have always been super-supportive of me, always allowed me to make mistakes, but have always been there to direct and support me when I’ve needed it. I love my family a lot.

What do you eat at home?

Me, my wife and little daughter absolutely love a Sunday roast, Roast beef or chicken are our go-to, you can’t beat roasties, yorkies, honey glazed carrots, stuffing, gravy, etc. It’s just the best and us Brits do it best!

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

That’s a hard one as it depends on how you look at it. Gordon Ramsay was and still is a huge inspiration for me. He was one of the first chefs I ever watched and followed and I couldn’t believe the amount of drive, desire and determination he had to succeed. But he’s not in kitchens now as his career has just blown up all over the world. Brett Graham, recently awarded three Michelin stars and owner of the Ledbury in Notting Hill, is most certainly a big inspiration for me, I think his cooking style, ethos and delivery is exceptional and one I admire greatly.
Best chef in Brum, that’s easy. Aktar Islam, one of my closest chef friends, one I’ve known for a long time and for him to be the first two Michelin Star chef in Birmingham is just magic. There isn’t a nicer guy – he has supported me since day one of Upstairs, and before!

Share a cooking tip, or two…

Support local producers. Only buy UK produce where you can. Always rest your meat for as long as you cook it for (as it keeps cooking outside of the oven/pan) and never cook meat or fish straight from the fridge. Always allow it to come up to temperature. And always have garlic.

What was your favourite food as a kid?

Easy – bangers and mash!

Food heaven and food hell?

Heaven is Buffalo chicken wings. Hell is aubergine.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?

I’ve eaten some pretty unusual things, but a chicken foot with nails still attached has to be the worst.

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

I love sports, so I’d like to think something to do with football, golf, darts, fishing, maybe. I also have an addictive obsession with cars – so again, anything car related.

Upstairs by Tom Shepherd, 25 Bore Street, Lichfield City, WS13 6NA. Tel: ‎01543 268877