Aiden Byrne: Pearls of Wisdom

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chef, Restaurant

Aiden Byrne, chef-owner of The Church Green and head chef of Aiden Byrne at Craxton Wood, is opening a new restaurant in Manchester this year
Aiden Byrne, chef-owner of The Church Green and head chef of Aiden Byrne at Craxton Wood, is opening a new restaurant in Manchester this year
Liverpool-born chef Aiden Byrne is as recognisable to TV viewers, due to appearances on Great British Menu, as he is to the diners at his Cheshire restaurant The Church Green. However this year Byrne is also targeting recognition from the Michelin Guide.

It was a busy 2012 for the chef-owner - during the year he turned 40, transformed the venture he runs with fiancée Sarah Broadley into a grill restaurant, won accolades for The Church Green and revealed he was partnering with Living Ventures on a fine-dining Manchester opening.

Anticipation for the Manchester House launch is rightly high - aged 22 Byrne became the youngest chef to win a Michelin star. In his career he has worked at The Dorchester and with chefs including Tom Aikens, Paul Rankin and David Adlard. The North West chef now also runs the eatery at the Macdonald Craxton Wood Hotel in Chester.

2012 was probably one of the best years we have had. ​We got awarded AA Restaurant of the Year for The Church Green​ and that was a fantastic achievement.

AA noticed the changes we had made to the restaurant.​ I believe the reason why we got that award was because we had been brave and made changes to suit our clients and the economic climate.​ We could have just stuck with what we were doing and weathered the financial storm.

I was reluctant to make any changes to The Church Green.​ My background has been fine-dining and that was what we were trying to achieve. When the idea of cooking grilled food was presented it was quite difficult for me to contend with. I bit my tongue and said ‘OK let’s do it’ - it was a tough decision for me, both professionally and personally.

Commercially, it was the best decision to make​. Our local diners use us a lot more frequently than they did in the past because they see it as a lot more accessible. If I knew then what I know now, I would probably have done that right from the beginning.

I am glad we got on board with the Inka Grill​ when we did. ​Customers are demanding food cooked with natural fuels – it adds flavour, complexity and it is something new.

We are hoping to open up the new site in June. The whole project is massive​ and it is the kind of food that I have wanted to cook for a very long time.

I feel like I have been out of the fine dining arena for quite some time. ​This (Manchester House) is a bit of an opportunity for me to showcase the potential I have got to cook that style of food.

I believe there is room for a Michelin star in Manchester now. ​That is a target of where we want to be but it is certainly not the be all and end all. People ask you to pigeon hole what kind of product you are going to be delivering.

I want to produce dishes on the menu which I have never done before. ​There will be expectations of old Aiden Byrne classics – I don’t want to be doing things like that. I want to cook new and exciting food.

We want to keep the food at Manchester House pretty theatrical.​ I have been in a development kitchen for the past few months and I will be there until we open – developing new ideas and learning new ways of cooking, it is easier said than done.

If you put a plate of food in front of diners now, it is almost not enough.​ They want to be entertained in other aspects and that is what we are trying to do. I don’t really want to use this phrase but concept dining is the new word out on the block.

The concept will be part of everything from making your reservation right through to getting home.​ I want people to remember it and talk about it.

The kitchen is part of the theatre. ​You will have to walk through the kitchen to get to the restaurant. The majority of the equipment will be induction but there will be an open fire or a grill!

I am 40-years old now and I have different priorities in life.

I have had my fair share of bad luck with Great British Menu but fingers crossed it is my year!

When you have a name, you are really fortunate that you have people who want to come and work for you. ​I haven’t really had the problem of 21-year-old chefs looking for head chef positions.

I have recently employed Ian Matfin as head chef at The Church Green – he is a rock! ​He used to work for Michael Caines and did Great British Menu – he is a year younger than me. We are really lucky to attract that calibre of chef.

I still do service at The Church Green in the evenings.

The last great meal Sarah and I had was at L’Enclume.​ Simon (Rogan) is another guy from the North West who is doing quite well for himself!

I would never say never to opening a restaurant in Liverpool.​ Like Manchester, it has moved on leaps and bounds. I definitely envisage a time where Liverpool will be in a position to sustain a high-end restaurant.

I find social media very useful. ​I have sympathy with the likes of Claude (Bosi) because I have been there with individuals. You are seeing yourself being slagged off in front of everybody.  

It is very hard to pull yourself away from criticism on Twitter or TripAdvisor being a personal attack. ​What we do is very personal - if it wasn’t personal our restaurants would be very different places. To say that we have to take a step back and not take a personal approach – that is nonsense. 

Related topics: People, Restaurants, Pearls of Wisdom

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