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Andreas Antona ~ Patron Simpsons & Beef Restaurant

Andreas Antona: Michelin Chef Patron Simpsons Birmingham (& Beef Restaurant Kenilworth)

Andres Antona, Chef Patron Simpsons, Birmingham

Andres Antona, Chef Patron Simpsons, Birmingham

When he was young, Andreas Antona went on a two year craft course at Ealing Technical College that, under Victor Cesarani, was among the very best chefs schools in the country.  He never did return to the family business.  Instead he went to Switzerland to work with some 120 chefs in the complex of two kitchens serving some twelve or so restaurants at Zurich’s central railway station. In Britain our railway stations have never been thought as centres of culinary excellence, but in Switzerland they have always been recognised for providing first-class training. And it was here, at the age of 17, that his adventure first began.  He was fortunate enough to work in the better kitchen serving the top restaurants and under chefs who were keen and enthusiastic to share their skills and experience.  A natural linguist – Andreas already spoke both English and Greek at home – he had little difficulty in learning German so that he was able to take full advantage of the opportunity.

After a further couple of years in Switzerland Andreas worked in Germany and then returned to the Alps for a winter season, followed by a summer on Lake Lucerne.  But as much as he loved Switzerland, Andreas didn’t want to spend his life as a seasonal ‘guest worker’.  So he went off to Stuttgart’s leading Park Hotel, and stayed in Germany for almost four and a half years, ending up as Sous Chef in a highly rated restaurant. The restaurateur was a good friend of Anton Mossiman who was looking for people to run the kitchen for the Terrace Restaurant at the Dorchester.  By now it was the early eighties’ and the English restaurant scene was undergoing an exciting revolution led by the Nouvel Cuisine concept pioneered by Michel Guèrad.  Working with Mossiman opened Andreas’ eyes and for the first time he really began to appreciate the exciting world that lay before him.

Within a year another door opened. Not yet 30, Andreas was appointed Sous Chef at the Ritz under Britain’s first celebrity chef, the dynamic Michael Quinn.  In those days this luxurious London grand hotel had two Michelin stars to grace the kitchen of the restaurant that is among the most beautiful in Europe. It was during his four years in the kitchens of the Ritz that he met his wife Alison, whose maiden name – Simpson – lives on as the name of their restaurants.

A short spell as head chef of a small hotel in Bath, was followed by a period as chef de cuisine at the Elms in Abberley, near Worcester.  It was while he was there that he heard on the kitchen grapevine that the then renowned Plough & Harrow in Birmingham was looking for a new head chef.  In those days it was the undisputed centre of Midland gastronomy.  Birmingham had recently left the steak and scampi scene and under Andreas’s careful guidance the restaurant began winning international acclaim for the excellence and elegance of its cooking. Unfortunately a change of ownership, with new directions and directives, made it difficult for the kitchen to maintain its standards.

It was at this stage, with a young family and a home in Kenilworth, that Andreas and Allison began to consider their options.  Although with his experience and reputation Andreas could have gone almost anywhere, they liked their home and enjoyed living in Warwickshire.  And so some twenty years ago they opened their first restaurant in what had been a pair of shops in Warwick Road, Kenilworth.  The style of restaurant was based on their desire for a fine dining establishment and Andreas’s eclectic style of cooking. Endless hours of dedicated hard work enabled the original Simpson’s to receive top accolades in all the worthwhile restaurant guides together with a Michelin star.

But Andreas is a chef with an absolute fascination of the mechanics of a restaurant.  He wants to know what makes them tick, what makes one better than another and above all searching for those tiny details that singles out the very best.  Then, leaving some of his staff in charge of Kenilworth – that became Simply Simpsons – In October 2004 he opened the new Simpsons, a 70 cover luxury restaurant in a handsome grade ll listed house in leafy Edgbaston, just one mile from Birmingham’s burgeoning city centre.  Two years later, with his long time friend and Plough & Harrow colleague Luke Tipping, as his Executive Chef, they received a Michelin Star for the outstanding Anglo-French cuisine that attracts patrons from all over the world to what has to be quite the smartest restaurant in the Midlands.

In 2008 Simply Simpsons in Kenilworth was sold,  enabling Andreas to concentrate on Simpsons in Birmingham – while trying to get his golf handicap down!  But the lure of doing something different on the catering scene led the restless chef back to Kenilworth in 2010 with Beef Restaurant – his take on the famous New York Steak Houses.  Here, with the finest beef that the world can supply from Scotland’s Aberdeen Angus, Americans USDA and Japanese-style luxurious Wagyu from special hand-massaged bulls, he has returned to his roots – cooking steak and chips, but with that indefinable magic Andreas Antona touch. But don’t take our word for it, come and visit Simpsons, or Beef Restaurant, and taste and share our passion for yourself.

Interview with Philippe Boucheron for ETM (c) 2011/12

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