Nathan Eades, Head Chef, Simpsons

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th July 2016

Before taking on the role as head chef at Simpsons, Birmingham, Nathan Eades owned his own restaurant, Epi. This experience enabled Nathan to learn and understand the many complicated elements required to run a business, and in turn helped him to empathise with Simpsons chef owner Andreas Antona and chef director Luke Tipping.

Nathan, after completing a course at Worcester College, started his career at Nailcote Hall in Warwickshire. For the next 11 years, Nathan worked at various hotels across the country and abroad, before chasing the dream to open his own restaurant.

We spoke to Nathan about his responsibilities at Simpsons and the journey he took getting to where he is now – including his application to join the RAF!

Why did you want to be a chef? 

It’s quite cliché really, I fell into it. I was about 16 and had finished my first year of sixth form. I came to realise that I didn’t want to go to university. At the weekends I had a job washing pots in a local pub. One Saturday night they were struggling for chefs and I was brought over to do the deep fried garlic mushrooms. The bug started from there really!  

You originally wanted to join the RAF, do you still wish you could have taken that career path?

Once I had realised I didn’t want to pursue university, I applied for the RAF.  My eyesight was one of the reasons I didn’t get in so I stopped at that point I’ve never had a burning desire from then to try again. I suppose fate took a big part in it, because that’s what encouraged me to start cooking.

You opened your own restaurant, Epi, before starting your journey with Simpsons. How did being chef owner of Epi prepare you for the role at Simpsons?

Prior to that, I was sous chef and senior sous in various places, and in those positions you almost get tunnel vision into thinking the food is the main part of any business, which of course it is but there’s so many more elements of business that you take for granted. Like organising waste disposal, insurances, working out the percentages of wage costs, what your utility fixed costs are and all of the other things that go on behind-the-scenes.

That played a massive part in me growing up and realising what we do is just food, and if you want it to be a successful business there are so many more nooks and crannies that are much more important. These experiences prepared me fantastically well, and now I can understand why Luke, Andreas and the accountant are nagging me to get the wages down. I always think of this old saying: “if you look after the pennies, the pounds will follow”, that’s very true.

Most of your training came from working in hotels, such as Lainston House and Swinfen Hall. How does working in a hotel differ to working in a restaurant?

You don’t have to get up for breakfast! In a nutshell that is it. All of the hotels I’ve worked in both here and abroad were fantastic foundations for me but in all honestly I knew I didn’t want to do banqueting, I wanted to be concentrating on what I am good at and what I enjoy doing, which is al a carte service and to do it in the best restaurant in Birmingham is a dream come true.

Info Bar

 

Dream restaurant 

I’d probably go back to Vancouver, if my wife would allow it! It would be very simple, bistro style food, with classic dishes done really well, nothing fancy. I’d like to run a restaurant where chefs would want to eat.

Dream Brigade 

Mikael Jonsson - Canapés

Marco Pierre White (Back in the Harvey days) - Garde Manger

Pascal Barbot - Meat and Fish

Daniel Humm - Sauce

Magnus Nilsson - Garnish

Michel Roux Jnr  - Pastry

 

So it was quite a natural move for you then?

Definitely, that was one of the reasons why I set up my own restaurant. I was fed up of slinging out sausages and bacon at 6:30 in the morning. It was the end of that career path for me. Hotels are ok, you get a nice steady amount of business throughout the year, but I couldn’t be doing with the rest of the business that makes a hotel function.

How did you end up working for Luke Tipping?

Funny story really, he was a friend of a friend. I had finished work at Epi and rang up a good friend of mine who is a recruiter in Birmingham. He said ‘why don’t you apply for the job at Simpsons?’ I like to think I’m a humble guy and I played down for quite a while, but the friend was quite insistent that I met Luke. So I did, and we hit it off straight away, chatting about food and football; it just seemed like we had known each other for years and not ten minutes.

Luke is a very down to earth working class guy, nothing seems to faze him. At Simpsons we have something called the wooden spoon awards and he’s won ‘Cool as a Cucumber’ for the last 15 years in a row.

Does Luke have a lot of input at Simpsons?

Luke works five days a week in the kitchen, he works the same amount of hours as the boys and I think to be honest that’s a really nice thing. For me, coming in at a managerial level, it has helped me settle in, because Luke is why Simpsons has been so successful for so long. He’s been at the forefront of the cooking for the last 20 odd years here, and it was quite nice to come in to such a high pressured, high profile job and have someone above me that has ‘been there, done it, and got the t-shirt’. Someone who has made all the mistakes, learnt everything that I’m learning now and so is able to mentor me.

What have you learnt from Luke?

I’ve never met someone like him who has an ability to touch a product or a piece of food and turn it into gold. We have a saying here in the kitchen when Luke is on the pass and the dish looks stunning, we say it looks ‘Tippin’d’ meaning the chef has that ability to turn a dish into something fantastic. I’ve never met someone who has that in them as much as I have Luke.

Has Luke influenced your style? Is it hard to find your own style?

Not at all, because I think me and Luke share similarities in what we like. Over the last 6 months we have had a major refurb in Simpsons and the restaurant has transformed into a Nordic/Scandinavian kind of vibe and the food has reflected that.

Luke and I love that free flowing natural style of food which has heavily influenced French cuisine through its methods. Which is great! I’ll come up with an idea and chef will tell me to run with it. It feels as though we have been working together for a very long time!

Is the menu down to you or does Luke have the final say?

It’s very much a collaboration between myself, Luke, the sous chefs ben and Leo, and our pastry chef Craig. We have a WhatsApp group message between all of us and on a Sunday night the phone is going mental with messages, dish ideas, pictures of cookbooks and whatnot. It’s very much a collaboration.

The idea stems from Andreas thinking that five heads are better than one - I have very much embraced that as I believe it’s important to listen to the people who have been working in the business and have known it for longer than I have.

Which dish on the menu is your favourite? 

We have just put one on using Skrei cod. We serve it very simply; roasted with artichokes which have cooked classically in a barigoule liquor and served with an anchovy butter sauce. There’s four elements on the plate, garnished with a few sea beets, and that for me typifies what we are trying to achieve at Simpsons at the moment. We are trying to use high quality ingredients and do as little as possible to it, making that product stands out.

Do you think that chefs are reverting back to this simplistic, classic style of cooking?

For me, if you get a stunning piece of fish from the fishmonger, or a lovely 35 day aged steak, why wouldn’t you cook it as simply as possible and try to give it the amount of care as the people that produced the product did? When it gets to the plate, as long as it’s seasoned and cooked well, you can’t go wrong! For me it’s all about the simplicity and the quality of the ingredients.

What really stands out when you move into a Michelin environment?

Consistency. Literally everything from pulling the orders away in the morning, how we clean down in the evening and everything in-between has to be on point. Every process has to be perfect, so we are doing a million little things really well to make the whole product fantastic.

What has been your single biggest professional challenge whilst at your current operation and how did you overcome this?

I entered a kitchen which has 12-16 chefs in the brigade. A lot of them have been here for 2 or more years, so it’s a well settled team. For them to accept me as an outsider let alone as their head chef has been my biggest challenge. I like to think I’ve come out the other side and now we are all working on the same page. Because at the end of the day, the customer is king and we all want to serve good food with great service.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans are to build on the 20 years of success that Simpsons have achieved and to learn as much as possible. I want to learn how Andreas survived through the credit crunches and how to come out the other side still fighting. I want to learn how to run a hospitality business – properly!

 

 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th July 2016

Nathan Eades, Head Chef, Simpsons