10 Minutes With: David Coulson, Peace & Loaf

The  Staff Canteen

Dave Coulson is the chef owner of Peace & Loaf in Newcastle, his views on food and the industry are both refreshing and honest.

His roots are firmly in the North East and so is his restaurant Peace & Loaf which is based in Jesmond in Newcastle. He is one of just a few North East chefs who will be cooking for guests in the first Dine by the Tyne event, which will see diners hoisted 100ft in the air to watch the sunset and sample dishes from the Peace & Loaf menu.

We caught up with David ahead of the event to find out more about this previous Masterchef: The Professionals finalist, why he dropped out of a football academy to pursue a career in cooking and how he and a handful of other chefs are putting the spotlight on North East food.

David Coulson
David Coulson 

There’s always the assumption that chefs have been brought up with food, watching their mum baking and dining out regularly as a child. But this is not always the case, David Coulson has always had an interest in food but his passion stems from watching Ainsley Harriot on Ready, Steady, Cook!

“I used to run home from school as a kid to watch it, embarrassingly!” Laughed David. “In fact I was showing one of the chefs in the kitchen a trick the other day with ginger, basically peeling it with a spoon, and he asked me how I knew about it, and it was from watching that programme.”

David left school and became part of the National Football Academy in the hope he would be picked up as a footballer, he left after three months and went to work in his local pub.

“I’d been a pot wash and been in the kitchen doing starters anyway, but I found the kitchen very similar to the environment I was in at the academy with the banter,” explained David. “I had a good head chef, it was fun and its money in your pocket when you are 16.”

David, 31, is self-taught, learning his trade from chefs as he progressed from pot wash to working at the then Michelin-starred Seaham Hall under Steve Smith a few years later.

He said: “I think that’s the best way, learning from chefs, plus you get four extra years in a kitchen rather than if you go to college. My first job was at the Castle Eden Inn and I went back there years later as the head chef.”

Learning the basics at the Castle Eden Inn, Durham, David says it was a completely different world stepping into a Michelin-starred kitchen. He applied for a job at Seaham Hall because his head chef told him to and he spent a year there.

He laughed: “I learned how to pick salad and how to wash mushrooms! But you see how everyone else is acting and you try and copy and keep up.”

raw steak and mushroom pie
Raw steak and mushroom pie

Speaking honestly David admits he probably left Seaham Hall because he didn’t turn up one day but from there he became head chef at the Prickly Pear in Sunderland.

“It was difficult to get customers in Sunderland,” said David. “There’s still no ‘real’ restaurant in Sunderland, for a place that has 300,000 people in it to not have a restaurant that puts a stock on properly every day is crazy.”

Spending a few years working with Marcus Bennett at Newcastle’s McCoys brasserie at the Baltic, David came full circle and became head chef at the Castle Eden Inn before deciding to open Peace & Loaf three years ago. Aesthetically it’s a clear reflection of David himself and he seems to have found his niche.

He said: “It was a bit of a risk but I was ready for a change. I just cook what is put in front of me. We have excellent suppliers, I’ve got a butcher I’ve used for the last ten years, Ken Holland is four miles away – in fact I’m probably the only chef in the country that Ken drives to come and see! He’s really passionate about his products.

“I think the North East is where everyone is getting their produce from, we have some of the best suppliers in the world I think. We also have foragers, Hamish and Vanessa Dow, who bring us ingredients.”

He added: “In terms of dishes at the minute we are doing a raw steak and mushroom pie, with a black truffle puree. Everything on the dish is raw so the egg is cured instead of cooked. We do a salad called ‘Any Two’ inspired by Sat Bains. At the minute it includes cress, ground elder, wild leeks, wild garlic and currant blossoms.”

The restaurant has seven main courses and the dishes change on a daily basis depending on what David can get his hands on. He’s confident that what he is doing is being well received and thinks that having a star in the city can only help the food in the North East progress.

“We’ve had no bad reviews, touch wood!” He said. “We had a brilliant review from Jay Rayner and had someone in from The Times last week. So we are full and that’s all we can ask for. On Monday we had 60 covers, in Newcastle that’s crazy!

pear, blue cheese almond and port

pear, blue cheese almond

and port 

“We do have five or six good restaurants in the city but there’s not enough chefs, that’s’ the problem. I think there is a big gap in chefs from when X Boxes were invented - there’s no chefs under 27! So I blame it on X Box.”

He added: “Seriously though we have a lot of people who just flit in and out. If you want to be a good chef you have to just stand and do it…..I’m looking for a sous chef if anyone is interested!”

David has six chefs in the kitchen all from a variety of countries from Holland to Zimbabwe but he finds this mix of culinary backgrounds a real plus when creating dishes. 

He said: “I come in with an idea but we always work on it together. The ideas are usually just a twist on something, I don’t rework flavours I just do the dishes my own way.”

In 2010, David made the finals of Masterchef: The Professionals, which gave him the opportunity to work at Noma.

He said: “I don’t really talk about it. Masterchef is not worth doing unless they make you get your passport out. You do Masterchef for the free trip, you go to a nice restaurant – I’m from a council estate I would never have go to do that. I got that opportunity and I’ve not wasted it.

“Noma was inspirational, it really was brilliant. Rene Redzepi is such a passionate man and he’s very clever.”

David is taking his cooking to new heights next week, literally, when he takes part in the first Dine by the Tyne.  The 4 day pop-up restaurant next to the Sage Gateshead takes 22 diners 100ft above Newcastle to enjoy the view and of course the food. Diners will be treated to raw steak pie, stone bass, seaweed risotto and scampi dressing and chocolate, peanut and fermented banana.

“Apparently nobody has ever seen this view before,” explained David. “So I’m going to be one of the first people to see it, looking over the Tyne – it’ll be a lovely view.”  

>>> David is taking over our Instagram on May 15 when he cooks for the Dine by the Tyne diners. Follow us to see behind the scenes and to see the view!

By Cara Houchen


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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th May 2016

10 Minutes With: David Coulson, Peace & Loaf