Jessica Simmons on new restaurant Beef & Brew and tackling the chef shortage

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Jessica Simmons on new restaurant Beef & Brew and tackling the chef shortage

Related tags: Angela hartnett, Beef

Chef Jessica Simmons, who previously worked under Angela Hartnett at Murano and Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room, is opening her first standalone restaurant Beef & Brew with business partner Dan Nathan in September. She spoke to BigHospitality about creating an accessible restaurant in London and tackling the chef shortage.

Tell us about Beef & Brew

When we did our pop-up Featherblade​ we noticed a lot of people were ordering beef over chicken, lamb and pork on the menu and it evolved from there to become more steak focused.

Accessibility is really important to us because sometimes you can go out in London and spend a fortune. We wanted to create a friendlier, neighbourhood restaurant that doesn’t break the bank so we’ve worked with suppliers to get the best value cuts. Onglets are delicious and a lot more affordable, which means we can always keep our steak at £10.

Angela [Hartnett] always said not to try and reinvent the wheel. Simplicity is key to the menu, but as a chef it gives you nowhere to hide - so quality is paramount.

How does beer feature in your dishes?

There’s a salt beef brisket which I cook with a beer cheese - a mix of beer, citrus powder and good quality cheese.

I’m also doing a brewer’s mess - a twist on an eton mess with chocolate and porter sauce. I use wheat beer in the salted caramel, which is mixed with brownie and double cream - so it’s pretty indulgent.

Has your time working under Angela Hartnett influenced the development of the restaurant?

It was a great honour to work for Angela. When I first worked for her it was at Murano with the opening team, which was a big learning curve. I don’t intend to try and emulate the Michelin star as that’s not really my style, but I’m really glad I had the opportunity to work with the chefs there.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the chef shortage recently, how do you think the industry can respond?

A lot of friends I’ve worked with before have gone in to contract catering or areas where they can work Monday to Friday and no evenings and get well paid, which I think is a hard thing to turn down.

A Michelin kitchen can be a very harsh environment but I think that people are looked after a lot more than they used to be. It’s not the army, we don’t need to be shouting and swearing. I want to make sure my staff are enjoying what they’re doing, and I think that’s important in order to stop people leaving and going in to other industries.

[At Beef & Brew] our ethos is that we don’t want to flog people to death; we want them to have a life and two days off together if possible. It’s an important balance that I think everyone in hospitality needs to get for their staff.

Do you think the industry needs to do more to encourage female chefs to fill the shortages?

There is more encouragement needed across the board to both men and women, let’s get them all trained up!

Michelin restaurants can be a tough environment. Sometimes it can be ‘oh you’re a female chef you can go in the pastry section’ and I was a pastry chef for Angela [Hartnett], but when I moved on to other jobs I started to say that I didn’t know pastry just so I didn’t get pigeonholed in to one type of food and could learn a good range.

I think variety is the key, I wouldn’t want an all-female kitchen team as much as I wouldn’t want an all-male one. Everyone adds something different and we’re all individuals.

Are there any plans for a second Beef & Brew?

It’s in the game plan in the long run but we just need to nail this first one. We don’t want to be a soulless chain but we’ve got big plans, so fingers crossed we can build the business in the future. 

Beef & Brew opens on 23 September in Kentish Town.

Related topics: People, Small Talk

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