Cheltenham’s first rooftop restaurant, The Nook on Five, occupying the fifth floor of the Quadrangle, opened its doors to diners on November 10th 2022 and the response has been phenomenal. We sat down to talk to Head Chef Alisha Philpotts and her Head Pastry Chef Andrew Simpson to find out a little more about the Nook’s philosophy and future plans.
Alisha Philpotts – Head Chef
It must be exciting to be part of this family restaurant and be Head Chef.
What can diners expect from the Nook?
They can expect a blend of modern British cuisine with subtle references to French food. French gastronomy is full of creativity and diversity and this is something we want to echo. As a child I grew up with home cooked meals from my mother, also a big foodie. I wanted to create a menu which was simple but done really well. All our food is locally sourced which I think is quite important nowadays.
Sustainability is going to be an important part of the Nook.
Tell us about your plans?
I am passionate about using local suppliers and produce, keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible and using seasonal produce of course. In time I would like to be considered for a Green Star which is a restaurant rating that provides independent verification that a building or community project is sustainable. Undertaking voluntary Green Star certification demonstrates leadership, innovation, environmental stewardship and social responsibility. We are going to be installing a Rocket composter on our roof early 2023 which will allow us to process our commercial scale food waste and green waste on site, using nature’s own process of composting. I’m very excited about that!
What is your process for creating a new dish?
It’s very random, inspiration hits me at really odd times. I get an idea, write it down. I then revisit it and make changes, finally testing it on my family and friends. It can take as little as a day, or months to get all the flavours right. After they taste it, I get valuable feedback to ensure it is perfect! Once I’m happy with it, I cost it out. I then think about the customer experience; How does it look, how is it presented; is it in a bowl or a plate and can I add theatre at the table like pouring a consomme.
Everything is important, like making the perfect martini. It’s an art.
We have to ask, who is your favourite Chef?
I am continually inspired by Clare Smyth, 3-star Michelin chef who I have been following for a long time. I think she is a genius.
How do you create a good chef’s team?
Like a recipe, it’s all about the ingredients. The kitchen can be a high-pressure environment during service times. Everybody has their own personality and opinion, and it’s about capturing that, in the form of the food we produce. We all work together in a small space and so teamwork and communication is essential. I am looking to expand my team and am looking for a strong Chef De Partie and a Commis Chef. If you are interested or know anyone that may be suitable please ask them to send their CV to Alisha@thenookcheltenham.co.uk
Andrew Simpson – Head Pastry Chef
Where did your passion for deserts come from?
I have been a chef for 34 years, when I started my chef journey. Like many chefs, I started in the main kitchen first. Most of my early years I spent in London, until late into my career when I was given a opportunity to step into the pastry section of a kitchen in London and taught by the Ex Head Pastry Chef from the Dorchester in London and that pretty much
kickstarted my obsession for pastry.
My inspirations on the pastry section have come from many talented individuals and it’s hard to name them all , but these are most definitely some of my favourite Chefs; David Vidal, Cedric Grolet, Antonio Bachour and the obvious one Aumery Guichon.
Over the past 10 years I’ve been the Head Pastry Chef at several establishments including The Miller of Mansfield in Goring on Thames, The Bell at Sapperton and The Old Bell Hotel in Malmsbury.
My philosophy these days is all about bright, vibrant looking desserts with emphasis on taste and presentation offering the customer something special. I’m also diabetic and therefore I’m conscious about the amount of sugars I use. I try to use natural sugars as best as I can that will still give the dish that sweet treat that the desserts require, and I’m also incorporating diabetic friendly sugars to some of my desserts where I can.
I’m very allergen aware as well and try to offer options on my dessert offerings that work for people who have allergens.
How do you find inspiration for your desserts?
Like Alisha, I get inspiration from many things. Social media is fantastic for chefs who are looking for inspiration. Back in the day chefs did not share their menus but nowadays chefs enjoy the interaction that comes from sharing ideas. I enjoy watching Youtube videos and also Instagram is a wonderfully creative medium, and is a space where many pastry chefs share their techniques and ideas, it’s a really good community.
How do you relax after a hectic day in the kitchen?
Although I am a chef as my profession, when I get home I find creating my desserts very relaxing and this is how I tend to de-stress. I really enjoy the photography side of dessert making too, in my younger years I was also a photographer and this has really helped increase my social media following. I get real enjoyment from posting my work on social media and the interactions that come from it.
What can customers expect from the Afternoon Tea?
The Nook is such a lovely restaurant to relax in and take in the views. This is why we decided on creating an Afternoon Tea Menu which was so popular in November and will return in January 2023.
For more information follow us on Instagram @thenookcheltenham