“Never give up. It’s a cliché, but honestly for me, when I am in the hiring process attitude and commitment are two attributes that will always trump skill. You can be the Lionel Messi of the kitchen, but if your attitude stinks no one will want to work with them!”
Executive Chef of The Montagu Arms in the picturesque New Forest, Nathan Eades talks inspiration, cooking for comfort and the importance of attitude
What inspired you to become a chef?
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!
Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background…
I did an apprenticeship at Worcester College of Technology for 2 years and after that it was really going in/around kitchens and learning on the job. I went over to Canada in my early 20s, when I joined The Wedgewood Hotel, where Lee Parsons was Executive chef, who now runs his own restaurant in Arundel, The Parsons Table (ex Claridges & Le Manoir aux quat’saison). Lee really understands food and can turn anything into pure magic on a plate; it was infectious and really inspiring.
From there I managed to go to several places throughout the UK, most recently as Head Chef at 1M* Simpsons in Birmingham and Lady Bamford’s pub, The Wild Rabbit in Kingham. I’m delighted now to be Executive chef at the award-winning three AA rosette, fine-dining restaurant, The Terrace at The Montagu Arms in Beaulieu.
What has been your favourite career highlight so far?
What we achieved at The Wild Rabbit will always be close to my heart for many reasons. Three AA rosettes within nine months of appointment, each year an entry within the Top 50 gastropubs and achieving 4/5 in the Hardens guide. But more importantly we (by ‘we’ I mean myself and our Sous chef’s) managed to keep a team motivated and united.
We brought chefs in as apprentices and now they are holding their own within Michelin starred kitchens. The development of the next generation is key for me; it is my main driver and my main motivator. Without people by your side, you are nothing.
What’s your favourite summer dish?
On our menu we have a beautiful XL hand dived scallop from Isle of Barra in Scotland, paired with flavours of a gazpacho – Isle of Wight tomatoes marinated, pickled cucumber, basil emulsion and tomato essence – perfect for summer. If I am at home, you cannot beat a great cote de beouf cooked over wood with a couple of beers!
What can guests expect from a meal at The Terrace at The Montagu Arms?
Honesty in everything we do. When we write a menu, the first thing I think about is ‘how relatable is this to my Mum?’ What I mean by that, is if it is alien to her and she is usually my biggest fan, then it is going to be alien to our guests. No unusual flavour combinations: just big/bold flavours that everyone wants to have with a bit of luxury.
Having trained in French classical cooking, menus see home comforts reimagined in elevated and exciting ways, providing modern and refined yet unpretentious dishes. Dishes will also champion seasonality and fresh hyper local Hampshire ingredients.
Talk produce to us – what does Hampshire and Dorset offer up?
When I worked for Andy Mackenzie at Lainston House over 10 years ago, he always championed Hampshire Fare and local produce. My knowledge was already fairly good coming into the role but for me being so close to the coast is a massive bonus.
The Montagu Arms is a property steeped in gastronomic history. The Hampshire larder is one brimming with fantastic produce and I’m excited to develop dynamic dishes using the finest ingredients from the hotel’s kitchen garden and look forward to creating a memorable experience for our guests
I can’t wait to use the Pannage Pork in the autumn as well as the summer produce off 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 does hospitality mean to you?
Hospitality to me is simple: to be hospitable. I would rather a guest leave happy rather than feel like they have been short changed. It’s almost as if I am welcoming someone into my own home and that’s how I treat it. If someone wants something off piste, I will my very best to make it happen whether that’s a sandwich for some walkers in Monty’s to Newlywed’s on their special day to an unforgettable meal in the Terrace. Everything has to be given the same thought and focus, because that’s our job and ultimately, it’s what I love to do!
Describe your cooking style in three words.
Big, bold, defining.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
Never give up. It’s a cliché, but honestly for me, when I am in the hiring process attitude and commitment are two attributes that will always trump skill. You can be the Lionel Messi of the kitchen, but if your attitude stinks no one will want to work with them!
What do you think will be 2022’s biggest food trend?
I think for many reasons, political and social elements; the whole sustainability angle plays heavily into 2022 trends. Whether that being cutting back on single use plastic, using whole animals as well as cutting down on meat intake, sourcing locally and seasonally, staff welfare; guests through social media are becoming more aware of all these topics.
We are learning each day as a society and as a business; but for me, making sure that all of the aforementioned topics are at the forefront of our minds whenever a decision is made is crucial as it would affect us all in the short term as well as in the long term also.
It isn’t just about cooking anymore; I really do believe the guests are passionate about the whole story and the whole journey and usually will make decisions on how they spend their hard earned money based on these topics.
Finally, what’s next on the cards?
Just keep doing what we are doing and keep improving each day. Be better than yesterday, but understand that tomorrow could always be better.