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BBC’s “Yes Chef” star Luke Tipping talks to Favourite Tables

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This week our guest at Chef’s Table is Simpson’s chef director, Luke Tipping (Professor Tipping, more about that later) who actually didn’t set out to become a chef.

FT: We have read that you became a chef much later than most having had a ‘misspent youth’, tell us more!

LT: I’m not really sure where it was said that I had a misspent youth. That conjures up all sorts of dodgy goings on, which is far from the truth. I just took time deciding what I wanted to do as a career and tried my hand at a few different things. I didn’t avoid becoming a chef it was just that I was a bit put off by the lack of time that my chef father could spend with the family when I was growing up. It wasn’t until I was 20-21 and working in the banqueting department at the Grand Hotel on Colemore Row. I wasn’t cooking at all, in fact I helped out on the event side organising and managing company exhibition and award functions. But I do remember helping out in the kitchen on one occasion, I must have been making sandwiches and plating up canapés before one particularly large event, you know just helping out, and it struck me that the buzz in the kitchen was something I wanted to be part of. So when I got home I spoke to my Dad, who was not keen on me being at the Grand, not sure why but he told me that if I was going to work in the city then it was going to be at the best place, which at that time was the Plough and Harrow. My father made the introduction not directly but through a supplier that also delivered to the Plough and Harrow.

FT: Were you hooked straight away?

LT: Not exactly, in fact I don’t really remember too much about the first year or so. Just that it was lots of split shifts and long hours. But it must have caught me because I subsequently enrolled at Halesowen Catering College and started reading cook books, which to this day is something I have kept up. It was one of Chef Alain Ducasse’s cookbooks that had a massive effect on me and I carried it round with me for ages, still do from time to time.

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FT: How did your career progress?

LT: It was at the Plough and Harrow that I first met Andreas Antona, who now owns Simpson’s. We lost contact when I moved on as I wanted to develop my skills and experience. So I took positions as junior sous and then senior sous. It was about this time that my wife and I went for dinner at Simpson’s when it was at it’s previous location at Kenilworth and by chance met Andreas. We spoke and he suggested that I come back and have a chat about joining him and the rest, as they say, is history. We have been working together now for almost 16 years.

FT: What or who have been big influences in your career?

LT: Well obviously, Andreas has been a massive part of my career and we both say that the one without the other would not have been so successful. Recently, well in the past 4 or 5 years I have been developing a nordic style in my food. I visited Noma about 4 years ago and was taken by the way they used fermentation and acidity in the creation of dishes, but also the plating. That’s one thing I pride myself on and that’s being able to visually put a dish together on the plate… that must go back to my time at school, I was always good at art and visual presentation. In fact I even thought about a career in retail design, you know putting cloth on mannequins in the shop window and adding all the detail on the wall and on the glass.

The chef that has most recently influenced my thinking is Simon Rogan and his restaurant L’Enclume and I recently had the chance to not only visit but to work in the kitchen for a week. It felt almost like starting my career again and it was a real honour to have the opportunity to observe at close hand. I packed my knife roll, booked a B&B and got the train up to Cartmel. What really struck me about the way they work is the availability of fresh grown ingredients from the kitchen farm just outside the rear of the restaurant.

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They only pick stuff that is just right and what they pick influences the menu for that day. All the meat used comes from land just metres away and then seeing how the daily menu is developed and how each element is carefully treated in the kitchen, before Simon’s style is presented on the plate. It was an incredible week and had a massive effect on my thinking.

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FT: So chef, more than two decades on from when you started how would you describe “Luke Tipping’s Style” and the “new” Simpsons.

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LT: It’s sometime very difficult to describe something like that but I would say my style is ‘very natural, very seasonal and free flowing’

I have been incredibly lucky here at Simpsons and fortunate to have formed a partnership with legendary chef and restaurateur Andreas Antona back in 2000. We have worked very hard to establish Simpsons as one of the region’s best restaurants and the recent refurbishment has enhanced and improved all areas of the restaurant.

FT: Tell us more about the Professorship from University College Birmingham.

LT: I feel very strongly about training and have run many in house programmes and the brigade have seen lots of talented chefs come up through the ranks (Glynn Purnell is among his protégés) being a Professor of Culinary Arts has helped me in this area.

FT: Thank you Chef we have enjoyed our time with you today and being able to see all the improvements and enhancements made to Simpsons recently.  Now it’s time for the fun part –  tell us about restaurants you have dined at and been back to…

LT: Locally my wife and I enjoy an evening at Pure Bar & Kitchen, it’s very relaxed and social and the matching of food and craft beers is done very well.

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Somewhere I have been to a number of times and have already booked to go back to is L’Enclume, Simon Rogan’s restaurant. Knowing what it takes to hold one michelin star here at Simpson’s, I know that L’Enclume thoroughly deserves two stars.

 

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Asha’s in Birmingham

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I went to Asha’s with my husband and children because we hadn’t been for a decent Indian meal in a while.

To start with, I was struck by the very pleasant and relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant, and the politeness of the staff.

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For starters we ordered a vegetarian kebab platter and a seafood platter, the former because I am a lifetime vegetarian. By all accounts, the seafood was just divine!

For mains, we had a mix of chicken jalfrezi, lamb saag, palek paneer, aloo matar ghobi, and vegetable malai kofta.

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The meal was what we would call an anglicised Indian…..but, what can I say, but that the whole selection was utterly delicious! The kids loved it and my husband looked thoroughly chuffed with his choice of restaurant.

Although it wasn’t the most inexpensive meal we have ever had, we shall certainly be coming back!

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Jimmy Spice’s – Birmingham

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On my first visit to Jimmy Spice’s I went in with not overly high expectations but I was very pleasantly surprised.

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There was an all-you-can eat cuisine ranging from Indian, Chinese, Thai and more. Perfect for when you’re not really sure what to eat that night.

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The dishes are fresh and very tasty, and watching from our favourite table as the thai dishes that are being cooked right in front of you is an experience in itself.

Our favourite tables location is: Jimmy Spice’s

Birmingham

Tel: 0121 643 2111
Regency Wharf, Broad Street
Birmingham B1 2DS
birmingham@jimmyspices.co.uk