Meet the chef: Food talk with Nathanial Tofan from Manchester House
Nathanial Tofan, otherwise known as Nat, was born and raised in Nottingham. Growing up in his family’s restaurant, Nat knew he had found his passion and at the age of 18 he embarked on a career as a chef. Nat started work as an apprentice chef where he learnt the basics before working for David Lem at Vienna in Nottingham. A year in Paris followed where he continued to build his culinary foundations.
In 2011, Nat moved to Manchester and was a key part of the launch of Australasia, Living Ventures’ high energy Pan Asian fine dining restaurant. Two years later Nat joined Aiden Byrne at Manchester House, working alongside Aiden in the development kitchen for six months.
After taking a short sabbatical in 2015 to experience new cultures and flavours, Nat returned to Manchester House as Senior Sous Chef in 2016 and in September 2017 was appointed Head Chef.
We sat down with Nat to find out a little more about this super talented chef, from his signature dish to his favourite ingredients to work with.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I hadn’t set out to be a chef. While deciding on what to do I spent weekends in a kitchen, doing small jobs and generally just being of help. I felt at home and discovered a real love for food, I’d found my passion, the style of learning and endless knowledge really jumped out to me. Creative freedom and expression was key. That’s really where it all began for me.
What changes have you made since becoming head chef position at Manchester House?
I haven’t changed too much, I have implemented my personality on the food and tweaked the service ever so slightly. I was lucky enough to have inherited an already very successful restaurant and I didn’t feel the need to change everything for the sake of it. The food is different with some characteristics of Aiden and other chefs I have worked for. The aim is to continue for it to grow under my guise.
What’s your signature dish?
I think my style is still too raw and will change over the coming years until then I don’t think it’s cemented enough to have a signature dish per se. Although my current favourite is the scallop cured in sushi vinegar with finger lime, pickled turnip and sudachi ponzu.
When are you happiest?
I’m happiest when with friends and family, along with some live music, cold white wine and good food. Or equally when I’m in the middle of service, the kitchen is on fire (not literally), food is on point, guests are happy, clean plates are returning, all is going well.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
The most important thing for me when crafting menus is using the best available ingredients. Not trying to do too much with them but also exploring different flavor combinations. I’m passionate about using ingredients from all over the world. But most of all keeping the guest in mind and trying to create something that is going to make people smile and showcase what we are about at Manchester House.
What would you do for a living if you weren’t a chef?
That’s a very hard question, there are things that I would still like to experience and achieve outside of being a chef. But more than likely I would be being doing something quite practical and creative. Something in design or architecture maybe.
What is your favourite dish to cook at home?
It has to be roast beef for friends on a Sunday afternoon. You just can’t beat a good roast followed by a big walk.
What is your favourite ingredient?
It’s very hard to narrow it down to one ingredient but I couldn’t live without eggs, I bloody love an egg.