Michael Bremner, Chef Patron, 64 Degrees

The Staff Canteen

Michael Bremner trained in Scotland at The Pittodrie House Hotel before heading to London as a young chef five years later. Since then he has worked in Australia, Canada and Brighton where he now owns his own restaurant, 64 Degrees.

Michael has worked with the Galvins at Orrery Restaurant, Curtis Stone at the award winning Marco Pierre White restaurant Quo Vadis and at Seven with Richard Turner.

He’s also been a contestant on Great British Menu which he says was the hardest thing he’s done in his life.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Michael about the inspiration behind his dishes, owning his own restaurant and why he called it 64 Degrees.

You did your apprenticeship in Scotland, why did you then move to London?

64 Degrees smoked short rib, pickles, bone marrow crumb
smoked short rib, pickles, bone marrow crumb

Once I got to chef de partie there were not many opportunities to progress. My head chef at the hotel met Chris Galvin and was chatting about me and arranged for me to go for a job interview. I hadn’t thought about London but I did want to move on.

And how was the experience at the Orerry? Was it very different to what you were used to?

Yes! Very different. I came from the sticks and busy for us was 30 covers, it was nothing like London where you work an incredible amount of hours and you travel for an hour to work and then an hour back. I learnt a lot though, it was one of those jobs I really needed to sort myself out – an eye-opener!
I worked on pastry and there was a routine which we stuck to everyday, the menu would change but the structure would stay the same.

Was pastry something you were always interested in?

Yes, the head chef who trained me at Pittodrie House, he made me think about food differently. He was very exciting and when he spoke about things he spoke about them with extreme passion so I think because he had a flair for pastry I connected with that.

What were the Galvins like to work for?

I thoroughly enjoyed working for them, it was hard there’s no mistaking that, but the year I was there I loved it.

You also worked at Marco Pierre White’s Quo Vadis with head chef Curtis Stone, what was that like?

I worked at Seven with Richard Turner for a year first and I think that was my favourite job when I worked in London, he was great to work for and we had a great group of guys there.
Quo Vadis was a lot more traditional, I was on pastry there too and it was completely different to the other two jobs I had. It was more standardised by Marco recipes and we had to follow that style.
It was a busy kitchen but I enjoyed it.

Top 5 meals

The tasting menu at the Dairy
The whole menu at Lyles
The ox tail madras at the chilli pickle
The tasting menu at Relæ
State bird provisions (San Francisco)

Five most influential chefs in career

There is only one Bob Ovington the head chef of the hotel I trained in.

Top 5 comfort foods

spaghetti Bolognese
Pho or any kind of noodle soup
Penne pasta, chorizo, black olive, anchovy and tomato sauce
Sticky toffee pudding, butterscotch and vanilla ice cream
Buffalo chicken burger from MeatLiquor. Not sure if that’s classed as comfort food but I love it!

You did some travelling after London, why did you head to Australia?

I come from the hills of Scotland, it’s a very small community so London was hectic. I loved it when I first got there but I lost that romance and found myself as one of the zombies walking down the tube platform. Three years there for me was long enough and I wanted a change. I went to Australia for a life experience rather than a cooking experience but I did end up working in a cool café which was more fine dining at night. I enjoyed it, it was something totally different to what I had done before.

64 Degrees Rum Bear
Rum Bear

I suppose I took a few things from that experience, they used to serve a Brazilian fish soup called vatapá which is coconut milk, red pepper, onions all cooked down. It’s delicious and it was right up my street.

You worked in Brighton and then took a position in Canada – what was that like?

I worked for Steve Dray in Brighton and he was incredible, he was in another league. I learnt a lot there and I took a lot of his organisational skills with me. I went to Canada because I wanted to learn how to snowboard, I was working at Whistler at the Pan Pacific Hotel and I was there for a year. It was incredible, the food wasn’t great when I got there but it was such a beautiful place. I changed it from Paninis and breakfast to more a la carte/ tasting menu.

Why did you decide Brighton was where you wanted to open your own restaurant?

64 Degrees Black bream ceviche, chilli, celery

Black bream

ceviche, chilli, celery

I always wanted to open a place by the sea and I love Brighton. It has a great atmosphere, it’s very different – I could walk down the street in a mini skirt and high heels and no one would even look at me! Everything is acceptable. The food scene when I first moved here was lacking, I don’t mena to sound negative saying that but it was a town where I felt it was more about filling yourself up before a night out. There was only a handful of decent restaurants but I thought there was something special here and I could see the potential to do something – it took a long time to make it happen though!
I worked at a restaurant in Brighton called Due South for five years, when I first heard of it, it was one of the first restaurants in this area with a local and sustainable ethos. I found that extremely exciting.
I took Due South as head chef as far as I thought it could go and I worked hard to learn everything I needed to open 64 Degrees in 2014.

And what is the story behind the name 64 Degrees?

There’s a lot of rumours behind it! Even guys at work tell people it’s because of the cooking of an egg but it’s not. While I was at Due South I learnt to use a water bath, I used a specific one and they now have buttons and stuff to get to temperature but the one I had used a twisty knob and I broke it and it stuck at 64 degrees!

Talk us through the restaurant and your menu, and what inspires your dishes?

I always wanted to create an environment which I would want to work in with a group of chefs who want to work in that environment as well. Good chefs were hard to find in Brighton at the time. I tried to fit it out with the best equipment chefs would want to work with. I think it’s a fun and exciting place to work.

We all chat about the menu and I’m conscious that the team have got us to where we are. My head chef and my sous chef have been with me since we opened.

We encourage everybody to have a say, we change the menu on a daily basis and we cook things depending on the produce we have. The menu is based around ‘food envy’, so when you go out for dinner and the person you are with orders a dish you wish you had ordered. The menu at 64 Degrees allows you to have multiple dishes and share them. But it’s not British tapas.
The menu is based on four meat, four fish and four veg – we focus on seasonality and local when possible. Just because it’s local doesn’t mean it’s great. But the menu is ever evolving and ever-changing. Now I’m trying to make it a bit more simple, chefs, and I’m guilty of this too, over complicate things to impress but some of the tastiest things I’ve had over the past six months have been simple but using amazing produce.

64 Degrees Beetroot, walnut, apple

Beetroot, walnut, apple 

Do you have any signature dishes?

Hispi cabbage is something we do a lot and has evolved since we first opened. We char it and use a lot of seasoning, chardonnay vinegar – at the minute is goes with a truffle hollandaise. On the fish side we do a lot of ceviche, we have a turbot ceviche on at the moment, and there I always one on the menu or a cured fish.

You’ve been on Great British Menu, how was that?

I’m a massive fan of Great British Menu and I did better than I thought I was going to do. I really enjoyed it and I made a great bunch of people as well. Tommy Banks and Mark Abbott are fantastic and Mark Froydenlund has to be one of the funniest people I’ve met.
It was tough but the Scottish regional heat was harder than the finals. It was very stressful but it’s done amazing things for the restaurant.

What’s next for you and the restaurant?

I’m certainly conscious that I’m nowhere near a star at the moment but if what I have planned comes off in the new year I think it will take the pressure of 64 Degrees. Since Great British Menu the restaurant has been pretty hectic and I never wanted it to be a place where everyone is getting beasted all the time.

It would obviously be nice to be recognised but at this exact moment in time I’m focusing on the customers. I think there is a long way for 64 degrees to go and I’m really excited about that journey.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd December 2016

Michael Bremner, Chef Patron, 64 Degrees