Todd Carroll of Nat's Kitchen, Buxton, Derbyshire
Buxton alumnus Todd Carroll returned from London last year to open Nat's Kitchen in Buxton. Simon Turton finds out what it= takes to be a restaurateur
For many people the idea of owning a restaurant is very appealing. As le patron you could mingle with your guests while your kitchen staff turned out glorious Michelin-starred food.
The reality could not be further from the dream. Eighteen hour days are not uncommon with many people in the industry working seven days a week with few holidays. As well as long hours in the kitchen, there’s the ordering, negotiating with suppliers, menu planning, cleaning, accounts, health and safety, staff management, and the never-ending pile of bills. And let’s not forget the customers, the people who you’re planning to be relaxing and mingling with. How do you cope when the restaurant is busy with a backlog of orders? What do you do when you don’t have a single booking?
Perhaps these reasons help to explain why, when we’re back in the real world, we don’t open that restaurant. They also help to explain the high failure rate of hospitality businesses and why many new venues never celebrate their first anniversary. To make a success in this demanding and sometimes fickle industry you have to be dedicated, hard-working and very organised. You need to remain calm under pressure and be able to deliver food of a consistently high quality.
Todd Carroll, who opened Nat’s Kitchen in Buxton on Valentine’s Day in 2009, certainly had no illusions about what it would mean when he took the decision to open his first restaurant: long hours, balancing budgets, managing staff and, of course, keeping his customers happy. One year on and the result is a fine dining experience delivering consistently high quality food.
In order to maintain the high standards that he sets himself, Todd is always hands-on when ordering supplies and insists on visiting local butchers himself when selecting the meat – usually taking whole carcasses. He meticulously plans every detail of his extensive and growing number of recipes, which currently total over six hundred.
Todd, who was born in Glossop, attended the University of Derby’s Buxton campus (formerly Buxton College of Higher Education), from 1992 to 1995. In 1998 he headed to the bright lights of London and into some of the most demanding kitchens in the country including Teatro and the Putney Bridge Restaurant; at The Greenhouse Carroll was senior sous chef and played a pivotal role in winning back their third Michelin star. He was also invited by one of the industry’s toughest bosses, Gordon Ramsay, to work at ‘Gordon Ramsay’, one of the famously straight-talking chef’s stylish London eateries.
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While Todd is now comfortably into his second year at Nat’s Kitchen he acknowledges that it was a risk to open a new venture in the depths of a recession. ‘It was a struggle to find all the money needed to open the restaurant, especially as the banks weren’t lending and there was nothing forthcoming from Business Link. By the time we opened I had ploughed in all my savings and had just �300 left. Although it was a risk I was confident that good food always sells and so far the gamble seems to have paid off.’
As well as a very supportive family, the owners of the premises, Sue and Mick Jordan (who ran Nathaniel’s prior to opening Nat’s Kitchen), were keen to play their part in getting the restaurant back up and running after the previous lease-holder left. When they met Todd they were confident they’d found the right person.
As well as offering a relaxed environment in which to enjoy first class food, Nat’s Kitchen has five individually-styled en-suite bedrooms. The B&B side of the business provides another revenue stream and offers guests a unique place to savour the delights of Buxton and the Peak District. Hearty breakfasts served in the restaurant are part of the overnight package and are also available to non-residents from 10am-12 noon (except Sundays and Mondays).
Todd’s confidence in aspiring to offer the best food in Buxton is more than equalled by his talent – he’s been awarded his first AA rosette for culinary excellence – and if you add passion for his art into the mix, it is easy to see why, in just over 12 months, he has attracted a loyal and regular client base.
The last word must go to Todd, who is very aware that his customers are his business: ‘Without their fantastic support we would not be where we are today. I am extremely grateful to the people of Buxton for their trust and loyalty, and hope that we continue to keep them happy. Thank you to everyone who has been involved with Nat’s Kitchen for helping to put us on the map.’