With over 16 years of experience working in top restaurants across the UK and beyond, Nathan Eades is now Executive Chef at the award-winning three AA rosette, fine-dining restaurant The Terrace at The Montagu Arms in Brockenhurst. Having worked under Luke Tipping at Simpsons in Birmingham, Nathan moved to The Wild Rabbit in Oxfordshire, which received recognition within the AA and Michelin Guides and was listed in the Top 50 Gastropubs under his stewardship. We caught up with Nathan to discuss his new challenge, his journey and his inspirations.
When and how did your passion for food and cooking begin?
I really fell into cooking if I’m honest; I originally wanted to be in the RAF but that didn’t work out for one reason or another. I started pot-washing at my local pub on the weekends whilst doing my A-levels and a chef didn’t turn up one day, so I got involved and the rest is history really. When I was a child, I remember making mince pies with my Nan at Christmas. She will be turning 90 in August and still makes them for us every year!
Did you have any mentors?
I still ring up Luke Tipping and Andreas Antona for advice every now and then. They have both built such a fantastic dynasty of a hospitality business within Birmingham and beyond. My wife Charlie is also someone who I confide in and always is the voice of reason and a sounding board for ideas of change.
How do you create new dishes?
My creativity comes to me in many weird forms and random places, whether that’s walking the dog, seeing a sea vegetable growing or when I’m eating out in restaurants. Once we have an idea, to get a dish on the menu we have to go through a rigid process of tasting, analysing and making sure the relevant people are in the loop with operation changes. This includes everything such as website updates, menu updates, till updates, wine choices, allergen updates, calorie counting, dish costing; it is usually about a 3–4-week process.
What cuisines, flavours or techniques are you loving right now?
I love the simplicity of Italian cuisine; taking the best of the best ingredients and flavours and doing as little to them as possible to create incredible dishes.
How can the hospitality industry improve for those who work in it?
I would change it to make our work life a bit more balanced. We are very good at being hospitable to others when in this industry but usually not to ourselves. When we are tired, we usually aren’t at our best and the guests can usually feel that in the dining room. The simple remedy to that is to take quality time out of work regularly to refresh and ensure you’re prioritising your own downtime.
Tell us about your current role and the food
I am responsible for all things food including breakfast, pub favourites such as fish and chips at Monty’s Inn, tasting menus at The Terrace and high-quality wedding breakfasts/dinners in our dining room.
I see hospitality in the same way I do welcoming somebody into my home. I do my very best to cater to guests every need, no matter how random the request. I always put the same thought, focus and passion into every dish, whether it’s a sandwich, breakfast, tasting menu or wedding meal as that’s our job and ultimately what I love to do!
The Hampshire larder is one brimming with fantastic produce and I’m excited to develop dynamic dishes using the finest ingredients and I look forward to creating a memorable experience for our guests with these. For example, I can’t wait to use the Pannage Pork in the autumn as well as the summer produce from the Isle of Wight. There are plenty of great producers and wholesalers in the area such as our friends next door, Bellord & Brown. It is a chef’s dream!
What do you have happening in the next few months?
We are going to continue to drive excellence on a daily basis, trust the process and stay true to ourselves and our vision for The Montagu Arms. I’ve just launched our new menus at The Terrace as well, so I’m excited to see the feedback from guests and how we can continue to grow and develop the menus from here to be the very best they can be.
13. Three tips vital for success in the kitchen
Commitment, dedication and the right attitude. Skill and technique can be taught but having the other three attributes are vital. You either have them engrained or you don’t. If you don’t then it’s lights out!
What are your goals and targets on a work level?
As the new Executive Chef at The Montagu Arms, I like to think that the only way is up if we just keep doing what we are doing and aiming to improve every day. My motto is to aim to be better than yesterday, but understand that tomorrow could always be even better!
Who inspires you in the industry? Any chefs you look up to/follow?
There are way too many to list, but my icons or ‘cooking gods’ and my go-to books for any recipes are Alain Ducasse, Phil Howard & the late Roux brothers
What would you say to a 16-year-old starting out in a kitchen?
Keep pushing to do your best and learn as much as you can. Try to be a sponge with everything you see and do (whether good or bad!) and stay committed to your career. It’ll be worth it in the long run. When I’m in the hiring process, attitude and commitment are two attributes that will always trump any skill.
What were the key steps in your development and career?
A turning point in my career was when I went to Canada in my early 20s. I joined the five-star Wedgewood Hotel & Spa where Lee Parsons was Executive Chef at the time, who now runs his own restaurant, The Parsons Table in Arundel. Lee really understands food and he just ‘gets it’. He can turn anything into pure magic on a plate and his passion was infectious. From there, I managed to go to several places throughout the UK, most recently acting as Head Chef at the Michelin-starred Simpsons Restaurant in Birmingham and Lady Bamford’s pub at The Wild Rabbit in Kingham.
Describe your cooking style?
I would describe my cooking style as big, bold and defining. Most of the recipes we create are from classical French cuisine and we take those, combined with the best of British ingredients, and then with a bit of luck, create something special! I like to see British home comforts reimagined in exciting ways to create modern and refined, yet unpretentious dishes. No unusual flavour combinations: just big, bold flavours that everyone wants to have with a bit of luxury. Dishes will also champion seasonality and fresh hyper-local Hampshire ingredients.