Tom Shepherd, Upstairs: 'I look back at that time and although it was testing, we got through it, and look at what we've created on the other side of it'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Spotlight: Upstairs by Tom Shepherd, Lichfield, Staffordshire

For almost two years, the pandemic put a spanner in the works of many plans, projects and initiatives across the UK mpresenting delays, unexpected costs and an inability to generate income. But not so of Upstairs by Tom Shepherd, which recently won a Michelin star a mere four months after opening. 

From boxes to bricks and mortar

In March 2020, the chef had already left his role at Adam'swith plans to turn the space above his father's jewellers in Lichfield into his inaugural restaurant. And rather than inhibit the restaurant's success, the extra time waiting for lockdowns to lift gave the chef the space to think his plans through.

"The business and myself came out of it a lot more informed and on a lot better footing to start, so I'm very grateful for that time," he said.

His food delivery service, Fine Dine at Home With Tom Shepherd, meant that he was known within the local community, too - as before the pandemic, he had relied on people who had tasted his food at Adam's in Birmingham, or followed his career as far back as when he worked at Restaurant Sat Bains and at Michael Wignall at the Latymer

"To be honest, I don't think anyone had really heard of me in Lichfield," he said. 

Thankfully, Covid-19 led to a change in consumer habits in favour of independent businesses, and with the boxes as his only source of income, Tom found plenty of support. 

"I wasn't employed, I wasn't self-employed, I wasn't anything," he said. "It had to work and it did work, and from that I took in a completely different customer base that was then excited for me to open the restaurant."

"I still get people everyday saying, 'oh we had your boxes Tom and that got us through the pandemic, we're so happy that you've been able to open up.' It's just amazing, I cherish those comments because they're the making of you."

"I look back at that time and although it was testing, we got through it, and look at what we've created on the other side of it."

Poached Atlantic cod, brown shrimp, caviar, parsley

Breeding talent

Although from the offset Tom placed a lot of emphasis on creating a team that was well nurtured and encouraged to feel part of a unit, now, they have an even bigger spring in their step.

"They're coming to saying they really want to devote the time and they're so excited for the business, they want to be a part of it, to be the guys who started it off, the original team," he said.

"They want to grow together. I feel quite emotional that that's where they feel their immediate future lies, and that Upstairs could be quite significant on their CV."

The current kitchen team, he added, "is phenomenal," and the front of house team is "exactly the same as what it was when we first opened. They've got stronger, they're completely in belief of our journey and we're adding to them as we go." 

The chef concedes that the launch was turbulent, especially given the circumstances, but, he said, "it was a case of just evolving very quickly - and we have done that." 


A clear sign that it is doing well, the restaurant is booked up months in advance - when we spoke, Tom had just opened reservations from June to October, and had processed more than 2,000 bookings in twenty minutes.

"People have been saying, 'oh, the Michelin effect,' but we were full before that - it's just gone a bit more crazy," he said.

Alongside running the restaurant he is building an extension, too - with planning permission applications already in motion, the chef is hoping for an initial move in September, and to complete the work in January 2023. The addition will increase the cover count by ten, with the space rearranged to make the working environment more practical for the team.

"We could do it a look quicker but we're trying to run a business at the same time so we're going to try and do as much as we possibly can while we're open, with the restructuring of the roof and flooring," he explained.

As he kicks off his first full year, the chef is sure not to suffer from boredom in the coming twelve months. "Busy year for sure," he laughed.

Upstairs by Tom Shepherd interior


The star came as a shock to the whole team, but means the world - not just because it is recognition for their work, but also an incentive to continue building on the foundations they have laid.

"We're absolutely buzzing that it's such a sought-after restaurant so early on. I couldn't be happier, it's amazing."

It is impossible when opening a restaurant to put a timeline on when you're going to achieve anything, with so many variables out of your control, he said, but "through experience, you can determine whether you'll be at that level within a time period."

"We wanted the product to be something we could use as a starting block to progress and evolve on, but as Michelin have come in a number of times, they clearly thought that that level justified awarding a star - which we're obviously over the moon about."

"I'm very happy that that's our opening level - it proves to me that there could be quite a bright future ahead."

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 7th March 2022

Tom Shepherd, Upstairs: 'I look back at that time and although it was testing, we got through it, and look at what we've created on the other side of it'