The sous chef at Simpsons Restaurant, Leo Kattou was one of the stars of this year’s Masterchef: The Professionals TV show and started out working in his dad’s fish and chip shop
Tell us about your cooking
My approach is to keep things very simple. I like to use good quality ingredients and treat them with respect to produce the best flavours.
How did you become a chef?
Having a Greek heritage, I’ve always been around food. When I was young we sat down as a family at mealtimes. Food was such a big part of family life but I didn’t want to work in our fish and chip shop forever. I told my dad that I wanted to be a chef but he played some reverse psychology by saying that I should stick to cooking fish and chips. Little did I know that he’d already spoken to his friend Andreas Antona about giving me an opportunity at Simpsons.
I joined Simpsons on work experience in 2009 and started working there weekends from Septem-ber the same year. I was also studying at catering college and working part-time during the week at both my family fish and chip shop and Andreas’ restaurant in Kenilworth, Beef.
What do you eat when at home?
I rarely eat at home as I tend to eat out a lot. When I do have the time what I cook depends on what mood I’m in. It will either be a Sunday roast on any day of the week, or a Greek barbecue – I love a BBQ.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
The best chef in the world is Daniel Humm from 11 Madison Park. I love his food philosophy and people should take note of his mantra “Make it Nice’ because it holds a lot of truth in its meaning. We’re lucky to have many brilliant chefs in Birmingham, but for me the best has to be Luke Tipping. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be where I am now. I also have a huge amount of respect for Matt Cheal, who taught me so much during his time at Simpsons. It’s great to see him doing so well run-ning his own show now at Cheal’s of Henley.
Is the customer always right?
Yes, but there are occasions when we need to bite our tongue and agree to disagree!
Share a cooking tip
When it comes to cooking meat or a roast bird, cook it low and slow to retain and increase flavour and make the meat more tender.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
It’s as much for the experience as the food itself. I always remember eating octopus and grilled fish in a beach restaurant in Cyprus during a family holiday. I’ve tried cooking octopus since and it tasted good but it just wasn’t the same as back in Cyprus.
Food heaven and food hell?
Heaven would have to be octopus and hell would be anything from the squash family (butternut squash, pumpkin and sweet potato) and oysters.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
I’ve eaten a lot of unusual food but at a Greek wedding in Cyprus the family tradition was to serve sheep’s brain inside its head. I looked, tasted and said ‘no thanks’ to a second helping!
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Easy, I’d be a golfer. I’ve played golf since I was four and if I could play every day I would. I still like to play two rounds on my days off when possible. I won several golf awards including a Young Mas-ters when I was young and I could perhaps have become a professional had I not once had a bad day on the course which made me reconsider.
TRY LEO’S CAULIFLOWER & CRAB RISOTTO
- 90g butter
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 200g rice (Arborio)
- 100ml white wine
- 900ml vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese
- 60g grated Parmesan
- Olive oil to drizzle
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 50g cauliflower
- 50g picked white crab meat
Prepare the cauliflower, by grating the tips of the cauliflower and then blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds, once cooked refresh in iced water.
Cook rice in boiling salted water for six minutes. Drain and spread over greased tray and then place in fridge until chilled.
Heat 200g vegetable stock in saucepan, then add the rice and stir.
Add the cooked cauliflower to the rice and gently reheat.
Stirring constantly, add the remaining butter to the rice, then the mascarpone and grated parme-san. Adjust the consistency if necessary using a little more stock, and season with salt and pepper.
Finish with the crab meat mixed through the risotto
Drizzle the rice with olive oil, and serve.