Chef of Chef Works : December 2023
Chef: Matilda Morgan.
Restaurant/Kitchen: Upstairs by Tom Shepherd.
Location: Lichfield, UK.
Social Media: @rest_upstairs - Instagram
This month we spoke to Chef Works wearer, Matilda Morgan – Commis Chef at the inspiring Upstairs by Tom Shepherd. Even though it’s early in her career, she’s gone from strength-to-strength as a young chef. Read below to learn more about her passion for the kitchen and her journey from Food Tech in school to working in a leading, innovative Michelin-starred kitchen…
Matilda in prep at the Upstairs kitchen wearing her Chef Works Marrakesh coat.
1. Describe your restaurant / role:
I work at Upstairs by Tom Shepherd. My role there is as a Commis Chef. I started as an apprentice, but have since joined the team full time.
2. Describe your kitchen and team:
Very energised and super-controlled. There’s a very strong sense of family and everyone’s always ready to lend a spare pair of hands when needed. The kitchen is at the heart of the restaurant and all of the guests can see Tom running service from the pass.
3. Favourite Chef Works item and why?
Definitely the Marrakesh V-series. It’s a super versatile jacket which allows me to get full range of movement around the kitchen. I like the professional feel it gives and it’s beautifully fitted whilst not being uncomfortable.
A Croustade of Beef Tartare and Grated Ox Heart at Upstairs.
4. What attracted you to a career as a chef?
I used to love watching The Great British Bake-Off and Master Chef when growing up, seeing how ingredients are manipulated to get the most out of them really gave me a buzz. I also used to love watching Rosemary Shrager on TV for her personality and her cooking style. I remember always wanting to go to her cookery school. When I expressed a love for cooking to my grandparents they started taking me to cookery lessons in Birmingham which really kickstarted my passion.
5. Favourite cookbook?
I don’t really have a favourite cookbook as of yet, one that I do frequently go back to though is ‘The Essential French Cookery Book’ (now out of print), when doing my Food Tech GCSE. I got a lot of inspiration from it and learnt a lot about classical French cookery.
6. Your culinary aspirations?
To travel the world whilst learning how different cultures cook and how they use ingredients differently compared to how I would. I’d also love to eventually be Head Chef at a restaurant.
Matilda Skywalker with Obi Tom Kenobi at Upstairs.
7. Your cooking inspiration:
A prominent one in my life is my Head Chef, Tom Shepherd. Working with him every day and seeing what he’s built and how he develops his menu is just insane! He’s a great role model to have around me and has shown and taught me a lot whilst I've been at Upstairs. I’m also incredibly lucky to have strong female role models like Clare Smyth, Lisa Goodwin-Allen and Monica Galetti to look up to.
8. Your speciality dish and what makes it so special?
Definitely Moules Marinière. Everything about it makes it special - the flavours, the simplicity, it’s definitely a family favourite - especially with a crusty baguette.
9. Your Favourite dish to eat and why?
Probably Coq au Vin Blanc, it’s so hearty and super rich. It’s always a go to when I am at home.
Lamb Neck Croquette with Radish.
10. Weirdest thing you ever ate:
Probably snails, I tried them for the first time when I was about 13 on a school trip and to be fair they weren’t that bad!
11. Favourite ice cream flavour and what do you pair it with?
Probably salted caramel with a really rich chocolate fudge cake.
12. Who would you most like to cook for and why?
My grandad, he passed away last year but I really wish I had a chance to cook for him now that I’ve got some proper knowledge and culinary skills. He used to take me to cooking lessons most weeks, so it would’ve been nice to show him how I’ve grown as a chef.
13. And who would you least like to cook for?
I always get nervous when cooking for my Uncle Maz as he’s a really good cook, whenever I cook with him I always feel his eyes watching me….
Chef Matilda outside the Michelin-starred Upstairs by Tom Shepherd.
14. What was your journey to working at Upstairs like?
It’s quite a long one. When I was 8, I became passionate about cooking, I even entered a cooking competition with the food chain Leon and made homemade pasta in my granny’s kitchen. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but to my surprise I won.
I then started cooking lessons at the Kitchen School in Digbeth, UK. I went until I was about 15 and from there onto secondary school to study Food Tech for GCSE. Whilst studying I got my first job at Domino’s Pizza which was honestly great and I absolutely loved it.
I had a goal, but I didn’t know how I was going to achieve it and coincidentally my mum worked at the chiropractors that Tom Shepherd went to, so they got chatting and Tom said I was welcome to do some work experience at Upstairs. The week after I rocked up in my converse and got involved in a Saturday service, it felt natural and after that I knew it was what I wanted to do. When the summer finished I knew that going back to school wouldn’t have been the best option for me, I left and messaged Tom to ask him for advice, and that was when he said just come and do your apprenticeship here, so I did, a month later I was part of Upstairs and I’ve not looked back since.
15. Favourite city, any particular highlights?
I absolutely love London, everything about it, how busy it is, how fast paced everything is; there’s so much to learn and to see. London has brought me a lot of unforgettable memories. My favourite would be when my grandparents took me to see Les Mis' in the West End and then we had a wonderful meal at Brasserie Zedel in Piccadilly!
16. Your greatest indulgence?
Cured meats 100%. There is nothing better than a charcuterie or cheese board.
17. And finally, your all-time best culinary tip?
That’s a really difficult question for me as I’m very fresh in the industry, but I would say to be authentically yourself, be confident and don’t let a mistake get to you. It just means you have room to excel and improve.
Photography: Jason Moore, food imagery courtesy of @videoboxproductions