Steve Edwards After Hours

The winner of MasterChef: The Professionals opened his debut Brighton restaurant last year. Fleur Rollet-Manus meets him to chat top Sussex producers, fish and chips and staff party antics

Has it been a busy time launching Etch?

You could say that. I just took my first holiday a few weeks ago, when myself and the family went to Salcombe in Devon. It’s seriously beautiful down there.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Largely from my time on MasterChef. It was Michel Roux Jr who noticed that I was overcomplicating things. He wanted me to refine my style and use fewer ingredients and I just took it from there. We only use two main ingredients per dish at Etch and this gives us an identity that works.

Have previous travels influenced your food?

When I went to Italy to cook at Osteria Francescana in Modena it was a big moment for me. The produce was on another level. The Italians have a great food history and keep things simple. I’d like to live there at some point.

What about when you cook at home?

I like to keep it simple there, too. Recently the missus and I made pulled pork with potato dauphinoise and roasted carrots. If we’re entertaining, I don’t like to do anything that’s going to take time away from enjoying myself.

Presumably your guests have pretty high expectations?

No, not really. I think all chefs will agree with me: we love eating but we’re not food critics. We just appreciate a good meal, whether it’s a kebab or fine dining. There’s a great Turkish nearby me actually, HFC Kebab House, two doors down from Etch. I go there a lot.

Which local producers do you recommend?

Nyetimber’s sparkling wine from the vineyard in West Chiltington is amazing and I love working with the guys at Trenchmore Beef, based in Horsham; both are top Sussex producers. I’ve been using our fishmonger MCB Seafoods for the last decade. They go out on day boats and what they come back with pretty much writes my menu for me.

What restaurants do you rate in Brighton?

The Little Fish Market recently won Brighton and Hove’s Best Restaurant. It’s just Duncan [Ray] in the kitchen. He does a brilliant seafood-only tasting menu.

How about for post-service drinks?

In Brighton, we start in Twisted Lemon. Then we’ll head on to one of the small quirky bars and start on a bit of a crawl. We’re a really close team and let’s just say that I think it’s important that the staff sees their boss hungover.

And for coffee the morning after?

It’s got to be Small Batch in Norfolk Square – I just love the atmosphere and it’s really cool and laid-back. I also did my first pop-up after MasterChef there.

Who does the best fish and chips on the south coast?

The Bankers Fish and Chips is my absolute favourite and it’s opposite Small Batch, so I’ll often have a cup of coffee with my cod.

Where’s the best place you’ve eaten recently?

I’d have to say Bibendum in London’s South Ken. It’s immaculate and there’s a huge focus on the atmosphere and the service. It’s strange for a chef to say this, but I feel like food makes up only 40 per cent of an experience. The staff make up 30 per cent and the rest is atmosphere. It’s a really important balance that I try to replicate in my restaurant, too.

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