Chris Simpson Head Chef Restaurant Nathan Outlaw Rock

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th November 2012

Chris Simpson is head chef of Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall. The restaurant has been awarded two Michelin stars and specialises in the locally caught Cornish seafood.

Chris had a wealth of experience to his credit before meeting Nathan Outlaw as sous chef of the Black Pig in Rock. Nathan’s restaurant offers modern British cookery with classical French techniques and a focus on outstanding British seafood. Chris is the man behind the scenes delighting the pallet at one of Britain’s restaurants and it is our pleasure to speak to him today as this month’s hero of the hotplate.

Chris, thanks for inviting us into wonderful Restaurant Nathan Outlaw. Chris give us an overview of your role

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw

I'm based in the fine dining restaurant. I have a team of four in the kitchen and Nathan is included in that. We’re open for dinner service only, it’s a 20 cover restaurant. In the kitchen we’ve got one on the pastry section, one cooking and myself or Nathan does the pass, in which I will cook as well depending who’s in and what’s on, there's a lot of prep to do as well so basically it’s a very hands on kitchen, I  like to get stuck in with the prep as well as the guys.

You've been here a year now……what do you think has been your single biggest challenge in that year?

I think it’s more coming up with new ideas with Nathan, for the menu working on new ideas and techniques, new flavours, getting the best out of the produce around us here in Cornwall and the local producers and fisherman and trying to work with them as much as. At the minute we’ve got so many different fish suppliers on the go that we get a separate supplier for our crabs, our oysters and mussels. So it’s all about working with those producers each day,  which is something I enjoy more and more, getting to talk to people on the phone and trying to go and meet people is a great part of my role.

Why Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, what made you come here?

I think it’s more about the way Nathan works and his outlook on food, at the minute we’re looking more into our ingredients and getting the very best ingredients we can find for the restaurant and keeping it simple which I think a lot of people are doing more of now.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw

Nathan’s always been an ambassador of keeping things very simple hasn’t he? 

Yes definitely and that’s what I enjoy that simplicity but it’s also got to be perfect at the same time.

People think simple food’s easy but it isn’t because you've got nowhere to hide have you?

Yes exactly and I think it’s harder to put three things on the plate and make it great an exciting, some chefs can put 20 things on there and do it but some chefs can't.

So I think you've got to find that fine line and your style of food that works best for you

What do you feel has been your greatest success in the year that you've been here with Nathan?

I think working with the team and trying to get the young lads encouraged and motivated. We’ve got two of the lads in here with us, that have not really worked anywhere else of this level before so it’s working with those guys, and trying to keep them encouraged and getting them tasting everything they make all the time and just working with the young chefs. I really enjoy training the younger guys.

In terms of you Chris how do you feel that you've developed as a person, a manager and a chef in the last year?

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw

I think I've learnt to pace myself more. I think you've got to stand back at times and look at everything. I think Nathan’s calmness in the kitchen, he strives for that, plus we are always  trying to get better and always pushing for new ideas all the time. It keeps you on your toes.

Tell us how you and Nathan will develop a dish? How does it start?

The menu can change on a weekly basis or a daily basis depending on what fish we can get so we’ll always use what the fisherman have got that day. I mean often it’s a progressions of dishes that have been tested and over time

Do you have a recipe bank?  
Yes we do we have to as the fish can change so often.  We do have dishes, the repertoire of five or six that’ll come together but if, for example, we have monkfish on, and then for example, and we can only get John Dory, if that John Dory will work with that dish then we’ll simply change it that way, depending on what produce we’ve got but if the suppliers ring up and say, “We’ve only got monk and John Dory today,” or whatever I’ll talk with Nathan and then we’ll come up with an idea from that.

Here in Cornwall you are blessed with wonderful produce, not only just from the sea but also around, the St Enodoc asparagus and that's quite predominant in Nathan’s menus as well isn’t it?

We use that every time it’s available but it’s only available five or six weeks of the year.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw

How far afield do you go with your produce? Does Nathan make you stay in Cornwall or do you have the freedom to go as far as you need to?

We do use things, or we have used langoustines from Scotland but yes predominantly we try and use as much as we can from Cornwall. We like to use different things from around Great Britain as well and we have used the queenie scallops from time to time of course from the Isle of Man but yeah generally try as much as possible to stay within Cornwall.

You’re head chef, two Michelin star restaurant it’s one of the top four or five percent in the country, where does this part of your career take you?

 Well I’m happy with what I'm doing at the minute but I would like to, if there's something that I could do with Nathan in a separate opportunity perhaps or even something on my own but at the minute I'm happy with it. I would like my own restaurant yeah definitely if that comes in time.

And is it staying in Cornwall for you or does it matter where it is?

It might be nearer home, near Burnley but at the minute yeah I'm happy where I am. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th November 2012

Chris Simpson Head Chef Restaurant Nathan Outlaw Rock