Chef of the Week: Nathaniel Farrell, Executive Chef at The Crowne Plaza Manchester Oxford Road
How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
Since January 2018, from pre-opening.
Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
As a teenager I loved Ken Hom the American-Chinese chef, I love the speed of Chinese cookery, also cooking with my mum as a child.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Its not a job – I get to play with food every day, yes there are now stresses and pressures that I didn’t experience as a Chef de Partie or Commis Chef, but essentially the fun from using ingredients and then creating a dish that someone will eat and enjoy is addictive.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, butter and water.
Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
We have been trialling MenuPilot system, which saves 12 hours a week on labelling, it’s a tablet and printer that prints off perfect labels for all products. It’s completely changed how we work.
What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Vegan, I have a banqueting background, and we normal produce 10% vegetarian dishes for big dinners. I’ve seen over the last 12 months 10% vegetarian and 10% vegan. So, we have removed the vegetarian dishes and have gone full vegan, just to make it easier operationally.
What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Nowadays its not putting the hours in, the sacrifice is being lost, rightly or wrongly. Young chefs believe they can be on big money in a year or two of leaving college, and sadly that’s not accurate.
What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Autumn, just after harvest, so September-October, all the salad and soft berries and fruit have gone, and we move into a more abundant time, as the root vegetables and more hardy foods have grown during the warm summer months.
Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I cooked the food at my own wedding, and the soup from the wedding will always be my proudest moment. We called it tomato soup on the menu, but it was clear tomato consume that we poured over different herbs, flowers and tomberries. And 5 years later guests still talk about it, I now whenever its on a menu I dedicate to my wife and call it ‘Mrs Farrell’s Tomato Soup’.
How do you come up with new dishes?
Over the last 18 months, I’ve started using a lot of data to look at what is selling and what’s profitable. I don’t hold emotional attachment to many dishes, so if its not selling we put a new dish out. When actually writing the menu, we use the AA rosette seasonality guide, and if its not on the list its not on the menu, so no asparagus or Jersey Royals in November.
Who was your greatest influence?
I constantly influenced, I believe we are always evolving as chefs and people. One of the many from my career was my Executive Chef in Copenhagen, Steen. He showed me that you can have fun in a kitchen, and that negative, fear-led, aggressive style isn’t the correct way to lead your team.
Tell us three chefs you admire?
Marco Pierre White, I love Marco and as a kid I remember seeing this ‘rockstar’ moody chef.
Marcus Wearing, I love Marcus’ food and know a few chefs who have worked with him and they can’t speak higher of the chef or the man.
Anthony Bourdain, I don’t know many chefs who haven’t read Kitchen Confidential, I remember hearing of his death and it feeling like a death in the family.
What is your favourite cookbook?
Michel Roux, Sauces. I got this book in 1998, its simply the greatest. I’ve used so many times, that when I turn to say the anglaise recipe the pages smell of vanilla or the bearnaise – it smells of tarragon! If you don’t own it, get it. I buy it for the promising Commis Chefs in my brigade as they will learn so much from it.
Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Manchester is going to have a culinary boom now it has finally got a star again, when I first moved to Copenhagen in 2009, Noma had just got 1 star, and within 6 months the standard of food across the city increased tenfold, Manchester will undoubtedly see the same thing happen.
What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
One of my old chefs has been working at Pinion in Prescot, he just became Head Chef there. I look forward to hearing about his experiences and tasting the food.