For the second part of our Universal People, On the Map series, we’re sitting down with some of Birmingham’s movers and shakers - as chosen by Phil Hazel, founder of the brilliant Liquor Store (and long time UW pal and collaborator). Up next in the companionship booth is the Michelin-starred chef Brad Carter. A maverick culinary expert who has been a friend of Phil's and a customer of the Liquor Store for years, he founded the restaurant Carters of Moseley to critical acclaim in 2010.
A former rave MC who confessed that having a Michelin star means he’s banned from manning other people’s BBQs or helping out in the kitchen at friend’s dinner parties, Brad would love nothing more than a night on the sofa with a plate of beans on toast (that someone else has made for him). It’s a hard knock life eh?!
We sat down with Brad to kick off part 2 and explore what it means to be part of Birmingham's ever-growing creative community, and get the low-down on his opinions about unfashionable vegetables.
“If I could be any vegetable, I’d be a courgette.” It’s a bold statement. But what else would you expect from an ex-rave MC turned Michelin starred chef? Brad Carter knows his stuff. The Birmingham-born food wizard was quick to explain why zucchini would be the natural choice for a plant-based summer alter-ego “A courgette is the ultimate seasonal thing. But - if you’d asked me the same question in winter, I’d have said swede.” Seems reasonable. It’s all to do with water content apparently – the science of steaming, slow roasting, providing a source of heat and allowing the juices to work their magic. It’s serious insider-intel stuff – the kind we didn’t learn in food tech lessons at school.
We were introduced to Brad by Phil, the founder over at Liquor Store, and as part of our On The Map series (Birmingham edition), we knew it made sense to speak to the mastermind behind one of the UK’s most exciting independent restaurants.
Carters of Moseley was launched in 2010 when Brad was only 27. It’s now part of the internationally celebrated Michelin guide. Unusually, he’d never trained under, or worked in the kitchens of any other Michelin-starred chef. He’d been cooking since the age of 15, picking up shifts in the kitchen of a local pub and at 18, made the decision to cook full-time (juggling culinary training with some nocturnal time MC’ing at club nights – but more about that later).
When we asked how it feels to be featured alongside some of the world’s best chefs, he said, “I suppose getting a Michelin star is a bit like winning an Oscar – but for cooking.” Brad explained how, “The restaurant ethos is ‘focussed modern British’. We have a kitchen garden a mile away and we only use ultra-seasonal British, Irish or Scottish produce – except for a handful of important ingredients. It’s the way I’ve always cooked and over the years I’ve refined it. Ever since I started in this industry, I’ve always wanted to cook in my hometown. I never imagined I would end up being known nationally for what I do.
Carters was designed as a restaurant for the people. We fit in well here in Moseley – and I think we’re inspiring young local people to see that if we did it here, then they can too. Of course, we get a lot of interest from diners coming up here from London, but we’ve also got a big audience (old and young) of Birmingham folk who enjoy our food and the way we work. The local area has been great for us. There’s always been a very independent vibe in Mosley and our cuisine really mirrors that attitude and stands out as unique.”
A recent addition to the Carters portfolio is the One Star Döner Bar. A Covid-lockdown project that was so popular, it spawned its own restaurant (with more branches to come). Inspired by Berlin street-vendor kebabs, Brad started rustling up his own take-away versions during the government enforced restaurant closures. He borrowed a kebab spit from a mate. Invented his own spin on the original and sold 400 in one weekend. The people had spoken. They wanted more. Brad decided perhaps he could keep it going for another 6 months, with a different döner every week. He used the same produce for the take-aways as he would for the restaurant. Proudly, he pointed out, “Fundamentally, it allowed a wider audience to taste what we do at Carters. Good quality food should be available for everyone.”. There’s now a One Star Döner Bar in Manchester, a Birmingham outpost due to open later this year and another branch planned in either London or Bristol for 2023.
Kebabs aside, prior to his time in the universe of fine dining, teenage Brad was limbering up his head chef vocal cords on the 1990s rave scene. What better way to prep for a career taking charge of a professional kitchen, than standing on stage with a microphone, in front of hundreds of sweaty, dancing punters? Laughing, he described how, “The atmosphere. The people. The way all social barriers were broken down once the music started – it just absorbed me. Rave was like punk for the nineties. Super creative. Very art driven. That principle of ‘anything goes.’ I got into it from a really early age after listening to mix tapes that belonged to my friend’s brother, who was an MC.
Wasn’t long before I was going to raves myself and getting up there and having a go. Ended up doing a few sets with my friends mixing on the decks behind me. We got bookings. I absolutely loved it – but I had to choose which discipline to master, and in the end, cooking was the one for me. MC’ing was a good way to express myself, but now I find I get that same creative feeling when I’m writing down a recipe for a new dish, as I did back then. It all stems from the same place inside. I do everyone’s head in, because I still listen to rave music now! It was such a big part of my life though – I’ll never give it up. You never know, I might whip the mic out again – just for marketing purposes though. Ha!”