Chef of the Week: Luke Tipping, Chef Director of Simpsons in Birmingham

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
25 years. We opened Simpsons in 1993.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
Interesting question, as catering was an industry I despised when I was a kid. My dad was a chef all his life and we lived above restaurants. My mum and elder brother also worked in the family business – he later went to work as head chef in hotels in and around Birmingham so family time was very rare. I finally got my first proper job in a kitchen at 21, which was at the Plough and Harrow in Birmingham, which was very late to start, so I was determined to catch up as quick as I could, working faster, harder and better than the chef next to me.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I love the thought of cooking something beautiful and the reaction from customers enjoying what I do. I also enjoy nurturing young talent, giving them a platform to grow into the next great chefs.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, vinegar and butter.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without? 

What food trends are you spotting at the moment? 
I think a simpler style of classical cooking is making a comeback.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down? 
A poor attitude, an inability to take criticism or to work hard.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why? 
I think every season has something special to offer, but I love the first asparagus, wild garlic and stoned fruit and strawberries, so I guess it must be spring leading into summer.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of? 
We’ve got a simple carrot broth on the menu at the moment, served with a cheese dumpling and some fermented carrots and black garlic, it’s a really simple dish but the feedback we get from the customer is amazing.

How do you come up with new dishes?
We’re guided with what’s around us, the seasons tell us what to put on the menu, we look at old dishes we might have done 20 years ago and see how we can improve it with modern cooking methods.

Who was your greatest influence? 
My dad for working in extremely difficult circumstances trying to keep a roof over our heads.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Early in my career, it had to be Marco Pierre White, then moving on a few years I loved the no-nonsense style of Alain Ducasse. Lately, I love what Simon Rogan is doing.

What is your favourite cookbook? 
Larousse Gastronomic.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months? 
Not too sure really. I just keep my eyes on my chefs!

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Folium in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter – the chef is a young guy named Ben Tesh. I had a stunning meal there.