Head chef James Waters, reveals the weirdest dish he’s ever eaten and how he could have ended up in the armed forces instead of Three Church Road
Tell us about your cooking
I like to take a classic dish and add my own spin. I feel it’s important to work in a seasonal, sustainable style and let the quality of the fresh food shine through. What excites me the most is creating a great plate of food that the customer will enjoy and talk to other people about.
How did you become a chef?
I started at the age of 15 in a local kitchen and fell in love with the energy and work ethics of a professional kitchen. I then worked in a number of rosette restaurants around the Cotswolds, including the Lygon Arms. This is where I developed my love of fresh seasonal food – working closely with the head gardener and working to use products at their absolute peak. I spent six months working in a number of hotels and restaurants in Spain which also helped.
What do you eat when at home?
I like to eat a lot of simple fish dishes, especially those with little washing up after! I really enjoy eating food with my family and friends.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
My favourite chef is Claude Bos [at Bebendum, South Kensington, London]. I really like his simple menu style, but with the exceptional ingredients he uses. In Birmingham, I really enjoy the work of Brad Carter. The service and food at his restaurant is exceptional.
Is the customer always right?
To a point. Food is a very personal thing to everyone. But sometimes the customer should trust the chef with the combination of flavours on the plate and not try to change them.
Share a cooking tip
Always dry the skin of a fish before pan-frying it. It will help keep the skin crispy.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
When I was younger I really enjoyed strong flavours. One of my favourite dishes used to be pan-fried liver with bubble and squeak. Delicious!
Food heaven and hell?
My favourite would be mussels, prawns and clams with lots of fresh chili, garlic and herbs. Hell would be anything with rhubarb.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Snake. It’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten – it has quite a muddy flavour. I don’t think I would serve it on my menu.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I think I would be an electrician or possibly in the armed forces.
What do you recommend from this evening’s menu?
We have a lovely megrim sole dish with a leek mousse and plankton macaroon. The colours and flavour of the dish are amazing.
TRY MAKING JAMES’S SMOKED RABBIT AND CHICKEN TERRINE
- 1 whole rabbit
- 4 chicken legs
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 blub of garlic
- 500ml vegetable oil
- 100g chopped parsley
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 50g cornichons
Cover the whole rabbit and chicken legs in oil in a deep tray. Add the bay leaves and garlic and cover with parchment and foil. Place in the oven at 80C for 8 hours.
Once cooked allow to cool in the oil until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones and shred the meat. Add the shallots, parsley and cornichons. Season the mix with salt and pepper, and place in a lined terrine mould adding a little of the cooking oil to help it set.
Chill overnight, slicing before serving. Serve with parsnip crisps, pickled walnuts and toasted rye bread.