United Kingdom, Europe
Interview with Luke Tipping
1. Tesi: Dear Chef Luke, you are the Executive Chef, of the Michelin Starred restaurant Simpsons in Birmingham, which re-opened a year ago. Please tell me more about your background and the philosophy, which drives the restaurant.
Chef Luke Tipping: We opened Simpsons in 1993; that was 24 years ago, which means we will celebrate our Silver Jubilee next year. To do this, I joined forces with Andreas Antona, with whom I had previously worked; we knew each other and were an 'old' team. In 1993, good chefs and good cuisine was a rarity in Birmingham; we tried to fill that gap. Most restaurants served food for the masses; we however, tried to fill a niche by serving good food, inspired by the chef and not by a trend. We moved to the current location 12 years ago; which back then, was an architect's office. We refurbished the space extensively before we could open Simpsons. In 2000 we were awarded our first Michelin Star, such an award, was unique in Birmingham at that time.
2. Tesi: Everyone refers to London when it comes to UK gastronomy. What is different in Birmingham's gastronomic scene, when compared to London?
Chef Luke Tipping: In total, Birmingham has six Michelin Stars, while London has more than 100. That tells you pretty much everything (Luke smiles). Although Birmingham has three million people, it has maintained a small city atmosphere, where everyone knows everybody. The city has a 'small town environment' and the gastronomic community knows each other very well. London restaurants are under much greater pressure in terms of competition and costs; this gives restaurants in Birmingham more room to focus on quality. In addition, competition in Birmingham is more relaxed; we compete with other Michelin Starred restaurants but also with 'upmarket gastro pubs'. People in Birmingham like to be offered a personal touch; thus a hectic restaurant, under pressure to turn a table as often as possible, per evening, would not fit well in this city.
3. Tesi: Some chefs discover their love for food and their gift for preparing outstanding dishes quite late, while for others it is clear from childhood, they will become a chef. When did you discover your ability to prepare food, far beyond the norm?
Chef Luke Tipping: My father was a chef and because of that, I grew up, living above pubs and restaurants, but that does not mean I wanted to become a chef. It was the other way around. When I was 17 I did not want to be a chef and at age 20 I became a porter in a hotel; I remember how I enjoyed people and the hospitality industry. After a while I began helping in the kitchen and changed my opinion about becoming a chef. I went home and explained to my father that I wanted to be a chef; he said that if I really wanted to become a good chef, I would need to learn the profession by working in the best restaurants. I began my journey at the 'Plough and Harrow', where I learned to cook classic food. In 1996 I went to France where I worked for some years, here my approach to cooking changed. My food became influenced by French cuisine and learned a lot, especially from the style of Ducasse. Today I would describe my style as clean, honest, and simple.
4. Tesi: Which dish containing less than five ingredients, is your favourite and why?
Chef Luke Tipping: My preferred dish has only three ingredients. It is a simple filet, with cabbage, and shellfish sauce.
5. Tesi: What does good food mean to you?
Chef Luke Tipping: Good food needs simplicity, clarity, honesty, the best ingredients, and a great chef to prepare the dish.
Matthias Tesi Baur
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