Ever wanted to play lead guitar in a heavy metal band? The head chef at Michelin-starred Purnell’s has – but thankfully for the rest of us, Luke Butcher’s happy making his food rock instead
Tell us about your cooking
It’s all about simplicity on the plate but complexity in the components. What excites me most is when you have just three or four things but the flavour smacks you in the face and leaves you smiling. What’s important is love, care and understanding of the ingredients.
How did you become a chef?
My grandad was a chef in the Navy and he passed down his love of food to my mum, which then got passed down to me. When I got a job working at Michelin-starred Adlards in Norwich, my love of food amplified. And then a young chef taking on his first head chef role at Adlard’s, by the name of Tom Kerridge, caused my love for food to explode. I went on to work with Tom for the next few years and was with him when he opened the Hand and Flowers in Marlow. I still class him as family to this day.
What do you eat when at home?
I love cooking family meals for my wife and two children, who are five years and 18-months-old. I like them to eat what we eat, exploring flavours and seeing their reactions. Normally on my two days off, I’ll cook a big family meal on one of the evenings and then on the other I like to take them out to experience a restaurant environment. My go-to meal at home would be a nice steak from the local butcher.
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
For me, it’s about longevity and what they’ve brought to the industry while remaining relevant. Examples would be Thomas Keller, Ferran Adrià, Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay. It’s about the legacy that a great chef creates and builds on. In Brum there are so many talented chefs, which is reflected in how many Michelin-starred restaurants we now have. When I moved to Birmingham there was only one chef I wanted to work for – Glynn Purnell.
Is the customer always right?
Simply… no. It’s about a mutual respect and understanding between the restaurant team and the guest (I hate the word customer).
Share a cooking tip
If you’ve got any meat to cook, the day before leave it uncovered in the fridge on a plate with some kitchen roll to dry out the outside of the meat. Take it out of the fridge a minimum of 45 minutes before you want to cook it. The drying out process extracts the moisture from the outer layer of the meat, which will give you a better caramelisation of your steak, or a crispy skin to your chicken.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
I loved going to the Norfolk coast, especially Cromer, and getting a little polystyrene pot of prawns, cockles, mussels and whelks, all doused in vinegar. Walking along the seafront, eating it all with a wooden fork was a proper childhood treat. I still do it now when I go back with my own kids.
Food heaven and food hell?
Heaven is crispy duck and hoisin pancakes – either homemade of from the Chinese. Hell is offal – mainly brains and kidneys.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Dried wasps dusted in barbecue seasoning!
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Lead guitarist in a heavy metal band.
What do you recommend from today’s menu?
The apple choux bun from the Purnell’s lunch menu. It’s seasonal, made with a classic technique but with a modern twist and full of flavour.