'You eat great, you live great. You eat like a king, you live like a king'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

For head chef at Carters of Moseley Pete Jackson, work has always been a family affair:

From his first job, when his sister Holly found him a spot as a kitchen porter at a restaurant in his hometown of Shirley, right to the present day at the one Michelin-starred Birmingham restaurant, where he shares the kitchen with chef owner Brad Carter, Holly's partner, and their adopted family of food lovers. 

Quick-fire Q&A

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A zombie apocalypse is upon us, you have six hours to escape. Where do you go and who do you take with you?

I don't know... I'd probably be dead in about ten minutes.

What did you binge watch in lockdown? 

Tiger King - I watched it in two days because I worked through the first lockdown. It was all over social, everyone was going mad about it and I didn't get to watch any of it. I really felt like I was missing out - I had to catch up on it in the third lockdown. I really rated it, it was amazing.

What is your favourite sandwich?

I like things to be nice and simple. My favourite sandwich is probably just ham, mustard and a nice cheese. I'm easily pleased when it comes to food like that. I don't like too much fuss, I like simple stuff. If there's too much in a sandwich it becomes hard to eat. 

Do you have any secret/embarrassing phobias? 

I don't like moths. I don't like it when they fly in your face when you go out for a cigarette late at night, I think they're the devil. 

What is your best party trick?

I don't really have any. I can't juggle. I don't go to many parties. 

Name your best worst nightclub. 

It's got to be Snobs hasn't it. The old one was better than the new one though. You couldn't dance because you used to stick to the floor. It was the best. 

Pete wasn't passionate about eating growing up. In fact, as a child, he said, "I didn't really eat a fat lot of anything. Apparently I'd only eat chips."

But working as a potwash, he watched the chefs cooking in the kitchen and found himself intrigued by the different smells, flavours and sights.

"It completely opened a new world up for me," he said.

The chef then went to study at UCB, during which time he did stages in various fine dining restaurants in and around Birmingham including Purnell's and Simpsons, before landing a job at Bank Restaurant.

Then an independent 3 AA Rosette brasserie, Bank taught Pete how to create good food at scale - and pace, serving between 300-600 covers a day.

The following year, as part of his UCB course, the chef was given the opportunity to go to Marseille in France for some work experience under chef Lionel Levy at the InterContinental Hotel. 

"That was a massive eye-opener," he said, as Lionel was a great chef, kind and generous with his time.

"I remember one day he got me prepping the squabs. Everyone was a bit like, 'what's this English boy prepping the squabs.'" 

"But he'd watched me work and I asked a lot of questions, I put myself out there, trying to speak French about ingredients, and I think he saw that I was really trying. In a way, it was a proper show of respect." 

On his return, the chef went to work at a restaurant in Solihull called The Fat Cat, an independent fine-dining restaurant which allowed him to put his experience to good use.

"I met some really good chefs there and made some friends for life," he said. 

"It was just what I wanted after going from a huge busy place: streamlining to something a bit smaller to focus on the food rather than the amount of covers." 

The chef stayed there until Brad and Holly pushed ahead with their plans to open Carters in 2010, at which point they offered Pete, then 21, a job. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Never look back

The team and food have come a long way in the past eleven years, earning a flurry of accolades including a Michelin star. But for Pete, the ethos has remained the same.

When they first started, he said, "it's not like we were pushing for a star - I hate the word pushing for a star - all we were doing was cooking good food.

"Every single day, we would turn up, cook great food, plate it up differently every time, experiment, play around with it. We just grew like that. You just try and get better every single day, that's the same mental process as we have now. 

"If you're doing the same thing every single day, it can be a bit soul destroying. You want to try and change things up and move with the times a little bit." 

At Carters, they achieve a constant state of flux by being obsessive about provenance, quality, and by working with the best suppliers around. 

To this day, Brad invests a lot of time in sourcing produce, which has become core to what guests expect when they come to the restaurant.

"We talk about the suppliers a lot, we talk about where it's from, who it's from, the process of how we come up with the ideas for a dish and all the ingredients behind it. 

"The amount of work that goes into it, even though it might just look like a small bowl of something, the process behind it, the mise en place is a lot of hard work, a lot of time, a lot of organisation."

And while they try not to "chat them to death," as Pete puts it, customers come to dine at Carters because they're on board with their ethos of supporting British businesses and being as sustainable as they possibly can be.

"We do our best to have zero-waste - if we get whole joints in, we use trim and mince it up, we use it for staff dinner. We don't have any waste, even when it comes to fat, we render it down, we keep it in the fridge. Nothing goes in the bin," he said.

"That's something we strongly believe in - I think it's really, really important." 

Eat like a king, live like a king

As the chef sits talking about his job with a wide grin on his face, his enthusiasm is infectious. Add to that that he spends his days bouncing ideas off of Brad and vice versa, it comes as no surprise that they never tire of coming up with new dishes. 

"It's not even like we sit down and talk about it," he smiled, "we just work our arses off and talk about it through the day." 

The 'Staff' book,  Brad's inaugural cookbook inspired by the team's daily staff dinners, is a great tribute to how their thinking about food never stops. 

"A lot of people say, 'how do you find the time to do staff dinner?' But it's not hard."

"We'll always have bits and bobs that we need to use, so we put them in a crate and then we think, 'okay, what can we make out of that?'"

"There's no waste, everyone's fed, everyone's happy, and it's nice. It gets a bit competitive sometimes, it's great." 

"You eat great, you live great. You eat like a king, you live like a king." 

The chef laughed when I said he would probably lead a life just as obsessed with food if he wasn't a chef. 

"I would probably be a hunter and gatherer or something if I wasn't in a restaurant. I would be cooking over fire all the time." 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 11th November 2021

'You eat great, you live great. You eat like a king, you live like a king'