Chef profile - Nigel Stuart, Morley Hayes
PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 October 2018
Nigel Stuart, head chef at Morley Hayes’ award-winning restaurants reveals his favourite dishes.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I trained in Leicester and then went on to work at the Grand Hotel. I moved to Derby to work in the city centre with a friend before joining Morley Hayes as a sous chef. I took over as head chef in 2001.
How would you describe your approach to food?
My philosophy is all about simplicity. I believe in taking the best quality seasonal ingredients, trying not to over-complicate the recipes and letting ingredients speak for themselves.
Tell us about your menu?
Our menu is based heavily on seasonality. We buy the best quality produce, including
Dexter beef farmed in the neighbouring village at Morley Hayes’ own working farm. We can trace all the food we serve – from farm to plate. We’re keen to support local suppliers and each menu in our three restaurants has been created to include fresh, local produce from across the region.
Which dish on your menu would you most recommend?
At the moment, I’d definitely recommend our buttermilk fried chicken with a blue cheese hollandaise sauce and pickled celery – it’s a firm favourite.
What would you recommend about the local area?
The area around Morley Hayes is fantastic to live and work in. Its location between Derby and Nottingham makes it easily accessible and there are lots of fantastic countryside activities to enjoy. Here at Morley Hayes, we run countryside walks for the local community at different times of the year. It’s a great way to meet up and explore the Morley countryside and learn about the conservation programmes in place, too.
Which ingredient could you not live without?
The most important ingredient for me is a good quality sea salt. The right amount can turn a good dish into a great one.
What would you choose for your last meal on earth?
That would have to be fried chicken with pineapple curry, preferably on the beach in Malaysia and shared with my partner and son.
What has been your most memorable meal?
I’ve had lots of memorable meals all over the world, but one that really sticks in my mind was at The Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham. The starter and main course were first class, but the dessert was something very special. A chocolate delice with a soft caramel centre and ice cream, it was well executed and absolutely perfect in its simplicity – possibly the best dish I have ever eaten.
What advice would you give to a novice?
The main piece of advice I would give is to work hard and be prepared to listen. I’d always advise a novice to work somewhere that uses fresh local produce. Enjoying the type of food they are working with is also a big plus.
Which chef is your greatest inspiration?
Bruce Poole – he takes basic, high quality ingredients and uses his creativity to turn them into well- executed dishes of a Michelin Star quality that are always good value. I try to visit his restaurant Chez Bruce, whenever I’m in London.
Any career highlights?
Winning the Derbyshire Restaurant of the Year in 2012 was a massive achievement for us and the culmination of all our hard work over the past decade. We’ve not rested on our laurels though and have won lots of awards and accolades since, notably Restaurant of the Year for the East Midlands and the overall national Restaurant of the Year award at the 2017 Food Awards England.