Ones to watch: Nathan Eades

Ones to watch: Nathan Eades

by Tom Shingler 31 May 2016

Tom Shingler talks to the head chef of Simpsons in Edgbaston about his rise to the top and how working with Luke Tipping has inspired him to constantly pursue new ideas.

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Tom Shingler is the editor of Great British Chefs.

Tom Shingler was the editor at Great British Chefs until 2021, having first joined Great British Chefs in 2015.

‘My childhood consisted of fish fingers, chips and peas to be honest.’ It’s not the usual line you hear from a Michelin-starred chef about their earliest culinary memories (which usually involve home-grown vegetables, the smell of their mother’s cooking or a revelation in a restaurant), but it certainly didn’t stop Nathan Eades running one of the Midlands’ best restaurants. Since September 2015 he’s been head chef at Simpsons, working with executive chef Luke Tipping to keep the food there fresh, current and exciting.

It wasn’t until Nathan was actually cooking professionally that he realised his passion. ‘When I finished my first year at sixth form I decided I didn’t want to go to university and planned to join the RAF instead,’ he explains. ‘I failed my medical due to bad eyesight, so after a couple of months in limbo I got a job as a kitchen porter in quite a cliché, classical restaurant and one day got thrown on the starter section. That was when I got a taste for proper cooking.

‘The first ‘real’ place I worked at was what’s now called Nailcote Hall, in Coventry,’ continues Nathan. ‘It holds massive significance because it’s where I met my wife Charlie, so it’ll always be close to my heart. From there I went to Lainston House in Winchester which had three AA rosettes at the time and was run by Andy Mackenzie, a guy who played a huge part in my career. He took me under his wing; when I was trying to be Jack the Lad and thought I knew everything he showed me how much I didn’t know. I met some amazing people there who have gone on to do incredible things in the Hampshire food scene.’

Simpsons was completely refurbished last year, bringing a new, contemporary feel to the restaurant
The menu is created by both Nathan and executive chef Luke Tipping

Lainston House was where Nathan really learnt the fundamentals of cooking and realised the amount of work required to cook at a high level. When he was twenty-four, he moved to Canada to work with Lee Parsons, an ex-Le Manoir and ex-Claridges chef. ‘He was very classically grounded, putting two or three things on the plate and really make them sing,’ he says. ‘In my opinion we were pushing out one- or two-star food, and it was there that I really learnt that less is more, as long as you’re buying the best ingredients you can afford.’

After returning to the UK and working as a sous chef at Fishmore Hall in Ludlow, Nathan and his wife decided to open up their own place in Bromsgrove called Epi at the Courtyard. ‘It was a successful business but Charlie ended up being the accountant, sommelier and restaurant manager all at the same time just to hold things together, and it wasn’t the career path she wanted,’ he explains. ‘To replace her would have cost too much, so we sold the lease in 2015.’

Once Epi at the Courtyard had closed down, Nathan spent three months ‘in hiatus’, until a chance phone call to a friend led to his current job at Simpsons. ‘I was talking to a friend of mine who worked in recruitment who told me that Matt Cheale [the previous head chef] was leaving,’ he says. ‘I applied, got it and now I think I’ve got the best job in the Midlands, if not the country.’

Nathan has been at Simpsons since September 2015 – around the same time the entire restaurant went through a complete refurbishment – and has already stamped his mark on the menu. But he’s by no means working alone; executive chef Luke Tipping is right there with him, and the duo put their culinary minds together whenever they can. ‘We come up with ideas together; normally one of us thinks of a dish and the other offers their opinions, so we work in tandem all the time,’ he explains. ‘Luke’s forever thinking about new things and I’m in awe of that because it’d be so easy for him to start winding down now. It’s something I can aspire to.

‘I’ve got a pretty similar cooking style to Luke, purely by chance,’ he adds. ‘We’re very free on the plate, so nothing has to go at a particular angle and we’re never going to be getting protractors out when plating up or anything like that. There’s a lot of focus on vegetables, too, and how they can impact a dish instead of just playing second fiddle to the protein. We like dishes with quite a high level of acidity and there aren’t a lot of heavy creams or butters because if you’re enjoying a tasting menu, they will start to affect your palate and become claggy. My style’s changed a lot from when I started last year – back then we were putting a lot of ferments and pickles on the menu, but we’ve reined that in a bit to make sure we’re cooking exactly what our diners want.’

This dedication to pleasing those who eat at Simpsons is evident in the way Nathan works – he says he’d be happy to cook someone steak and chips if that’s what they asked for. However, with a tasting menu that includes fermented chocolate, mackerel and wasabi, tarragon ice cream and sheep’s milk yoghurt, there’s plenty to please the palate. ‘We’ve got a dish which is just two large scallops brushed with miso paste and pan-fried,’ says Nathan, when I ask him about his favourite thing on the menu. ‘We sit them on a bed of tapioca pearls, caviar, yuzu pearls and brown shrimp, then have some blanched white and green asparagus next to it. There are just three elements on the plate, but we've nailed the presentation and seasoning as best we can to make it something special.’