The former The Flitch of Bacon head chef has purchased one of Lincoln's best known restaurants and plans to "carefully" update it
You’re a Great British Menu finalist and have a Michelin-studded CV, why do you want to run a pie shop?
It’s a very special place for me. I started working at Browns Pie Shop when I was 12 and my parents have run it for the last 15 years. It’s the place that got me into the industry. Even as a kitchen porter I loved the buzz and the camaraderie of the kitchen. Working here led to a couple of jobs in and around Lincoln. After that I did long stints at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and for Daniel Clifford at both Midsummer House and The Flitch of Bacon (the latter as head chef). My parents were selling up and I wanted to keep the business in the family and give our long serving staff peace of mind.
Is the pie shop the reason you left The Flitch of Bacon?
No. I’d already left because I wanted to get back to Lincoln. I’ve been working away from my family for the past 15 years. I have two young children and a very patient fiancee. I also wanted to do things my way. I’m 30 years old now and done working for other people.
Are you missing Michelin-starred kitchens?
Not in the slightest. I’ve spent the last 15 years working 18 hours a day. It’s nice to be in an environment where people aren’t expected to work crazy hours. I feel much more creative and motivated because I’m not working myself into the ground. The upper end of the restaurant industry has had a lot of negative press over long hours and is struggling to recruit chefs. I think we only have ourselves to blame.
What is Browns like as a business?
Very strong. It does nearly 1000 covers a week and everybody round here knows it. It’s a humble, good value place.
Do you plan to make any changes?
Yes but I need to be very careful. I took apple crumble off the menu in the first couple of weeks and that caused a big stink. We’re going to do it gradually. I don’t want to turn a successful business into a unsuccessful one by making too many changes too quickly. But ultimately the plan is to refine things a little. The decor is a bit tired and needs updating but it’s just me and my fiancée - we don’t have any business partners or deep pocketed backers - so we’re going to have to wait a bit.
The menu is quite long…
We offer a lot more beside pies. Steaks, fish, risotto... The dishes are very simple so it is workable. But with that said I do want to eventually reduce the number of dishes.
Tell us about the pies...
The pies are great and we’re renowned for them. All the mixes are made in house using quality meats and homemade stocks. The only problem is that some people say they’re not a pie because there’s no bottom to them. As a chef I agree, they’re just a casserole with a pastry lid. But as my dad says, “people can call them what they want but they always come back for them, so the proof is in the pudding”. We are going to start looking at doing a top and bottom pie but given the amount we sell it will be a logistical challenge.
Is Browns your focus or do you have other plans afoot?
For the moment, yes. But I am in talks with a local businessman to open a more involved and upmarket restaurant just down the road from Brown’s in Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter. Lincoln is a good place to be at the moment. There’s been a lot of investment. But Brown’s will also ways be front of mind for me. It’s not just a stepping stone to do something else. The restaurant means a great deal to me.