An exciting new chapter for Birmingham’s culinary scene begins this month as the team behind Opus opens a new independent venue in Edgbaston Village. We caught up with the head chef at Chapter Restaurant, Nathan Swift, to see what makes him tick
Tell us about your cooking
Modern fresh British is my style of cooking. It’s important to be passionate and positive in this line of work and I love working with the finest local sourced ingredients that Britain has to offer – from the veg in Worcestershire and Evesham, fresh fish from Brixham Fish Market or delicious Cornish lamb.
How did you become a chef?
I don’t have a formal catering education as I started out as a pot washer in a hotel to earn some money. I was always in the kitchen with the chefs helping out when I could, then one day I was offered a position as commis chef. So, I have learned everything I know on the job. I don’t have one particular chef as an influence as I like to take ideas and put them together to come up with something of my own.
What do you eat at home?
A nice roast dinner, a Bolognese or even my wife’s jacket potatoes – she does the best potatoes! Everybody thinks that a chef would be eating a top restaurant dinner even at home, but this is not always the case as I spend most of my time behind a stove at work. But I do really enjoy cooking with produce straight out of my allotment that my young son and I work together. We’re also raising quail (fresh quail eggs in the morning – you can’t beat that).
Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?
If I had to choose a best chef then it would have to be Michael Caines as I had the pleasure to work alongside him, watching him prepare and produce the finest of foods. Michael is an inspiration as he only has one arm but always gives it his all to show his staff that anything can be accomplished when you put your mind to it. Best chef in Birmingham? Well, they all excel in their own way, but they can only be as good as the team behind them that help to make it happen.
Share a cooking tip
If you are ever slow-cooking a piece of meat then always allow it to cool down in the braising liquor so it doesn’t steam dry. Steam is moisture and it will affect the end product.
What was your favourite food as a kid?
It would have to be a nice roast dinner with all the trimmings that we had every Sunday. I mean who doesn’t like a roast dinner!
Food heaven and food hell?
Hell for me would have to be things like liver and onion or anything offal unless you use a lot of butter, eggs, reduce port, madeira, thyme and garlic and make a nice parfait out of it! Heaven is spring-time when we have some nice fresh lamb, wild garlic and asparagus finished with roast Jersey royal potatoes, all in rich red wine sauce.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
That’d be snake! It was very early in my journey to become a chef, but I remember it having a fish- like texture, a very strong meat taste and a touch of iron in the flavour.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
I would be in the engineering industry as I went to college and I did mechanical engineering and I did boat building engineering.