Nathan Eades, head chef of Michelin-starred Simpson’s Restaurant, had a somewhat unconventional route into the culinary world. After getting a taste for cooking at the exclusive Lainston House Hotel, he moved to Canada to work alongside chef Lee Parsons, formerly of Claridge’s.
The experience proved instrumental in strengthening Nathan’s belief in the importance of buying only the very best quality ingredients. Upon his return to the UK, Nathan and his wife Charlie opened their own restaurant, Epi at the Courtyard, which enjoyed a successful run before Nathan’s move to Simpson’s in 2015.
Since then, he has worked with executive chef Luke Tipping to create new and innovative dishes that delight diners and critics alike. We recently chatted about career changes, cooking and good food.
Where does your love of food come from?
I think, like most, love of food comes from my family. I’m fortunate enough that my wife is pretty decent in the kitchen, as is my aunt, who produces the most amazing cakes. For me, it’s all about who you dine with. However memorable a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, it would never be as good as being at my Nan’s with a load of us round the table, having a good time and enjoying her 40 minute pressure cooked vegetables.
What were your aspirations before becoming a chef?
When I was in sixth form I wanted to join the RAF. I failed the medical due to poor eyesight. It ended up being a blessing, as I love what I’m doing now and couldn’t imagine having a different career.
You are head chef at one of the country’s best restaurants, how did you land this incredible role?
By chance! I knew Matt Cheale had left Simpson’s to start his own place in Henley, but I didn’t know Luke personally, only through friends of friends. I had sold the lease on mine and my wife’s restaurant and I took a small hiatus. Eventually I rang a recruiter friend and he put me in touch with Luke and as they say, the rest is history!
What do you look for when sourcing new ingredients?
Simply the quality of it. If it doesn’t make the hairs on my neck stand on end I’m not interested. I’m very much an all or nothing kind of guy and when something interests me I’m like a child in a sweet shop!
You work very closely with Simpson’s executive chef Luke Tipping, how similar are your cooking styles?
Our styles, by chance, are the same. I suppose we went through a phase at the beginning trying to see how each other worked; but generally speaking it just clicked. The thing I love about chef is that he is so down to earth and humble. I have never worked for a chef quite like him.
At home, what is your favourite meal to cook for family and friends?
Risotto. Simple, hearty, tasty! And the best thing is that it’s a one pan wonder, so it saves on the washing up.
Did your time in Vancouver influence the way you cook at all?
Chef Lee Parsons, who now owns The Parsons Table in Arundel, had a profound effect on my life and career. Technically he is the best chef I have ever worked with, hands down. The food we were cooking was the best in the city. I’ve never met a chef who could get so much flavour out of the most basic ingredients and make it look effortless in the process. He taught me to find the best ingredients, source locally, and cook with your heart.
The food scene itself was pretty casual, which at the time I didn’t really understand. Going from a country house hotel background, to eating Korean hot dogs and all sorts; I just didn’t get it. But looking back now, I suppose it was just the beginning of the street food phenomenon.
What is your top tip for cooking with beef?
Slow and low: Cook prime joints of meat at 80°C until you achieve the desired core temperature. For medium rare we usually prove to 52°C, which is slightly lower than medium rare, but the residual heat would get it to 55-56°C.
What is your favourite cut of beef & why?
Bavette, all day long! For tartare or as a steak it is so versatile. What people don’t always appreciate is that it is actually the second most tender muscle on a cow, second only to fillet. Just remember to slice against the grain to get the best from it.
And your most trusted general cooking tip?
Trust your instincts; if it looks average, it’s probably going to taste it too!
Lastly, what is the most memorable dish of your childhood?
Fish fingers, potato smilies and beans! Hardcore!