Chef profile - James MacLeod-Birch of Rupert & Darwin in Hull

While we wait for lockdown to end it’s an ideal time to look back on the career of James McLeod-Birch. It was only in 2019 that opened his new venture – Rupert & Darwin on Hull’s de facto gastronomic boulevard, Princes Avenue – but it has already proven that the time spent  running various ventures for the 1884 brand may have been effort better spent on his own restaurant.

Chef James MacLeod-Birch.

Born and raised in Hull, he started in the restaurant game whilst studying for a design degree at Goldsmiths College in the late 90s. But he realised he was more intrigued by the food he was cooking for his housemates so he enrolled at Leiths School of Food and Wine in Kensington.

While at the school, James met Gary Rhodes and secured a job at the Michelin-starred City Rhodes. Various stages at more renowned (some Michelin-starred) restaurants followed, before he was headhunted to run the newly-opened Wells Tavern in Hampstead, north London.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

After a brief stint running restaurants in the Outer Hebrides, he moved back to Hull and became involved in the first 1884 project, Dock Street Kitchen.

Twists on classics is the philosophy of James MacLeod-Birch at Rupert & Darwin

Read More

Read More
Chef profile - Neil Bentinck of Skosh in York

Seven years and four restaurants later, James, his wife Beth and business partner David Rooms decided what Hull needed was an approachable, reasonably-priced restaurant serving twists on British classics. Before lockdown, James could be found either side of the pass in Rupert & Darwin.

Can you remember the first dish you ever cooked – and was it a success? It was Chicken fettuccine, taught to me by my mum when I was 18 and she was preparing me to go off to university. I was terribly well-looked after at home and didn’t even know how to boil an egg up to that point. It actually had Bachelor’s Chicken Cup-a-Soup as one of the ingredients. All I can say is that it was very salty and not at all like my mum prepared it. I got better though, eventually.

Who is your inspiration in the kitchen and why? I have several inspirations – my first head chef, Michael Bedford from City Rhodes, was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. The best chef I’ve had the pleasure of working with was Andy Gale, head chef of the Wells Tavern, who then moved to Australia and made big waves there. His style was everything I love about food – simplicity, elegance and flavour. I’ve got a real thing about natural chefs now, though. Magnus Nilsson, when he had Faviken, is a perfect example.

What was the first recipe book you ever owned? My first proper cookbook that I went out and bought myself, because I liked the chef, was Nigel Slater’s Real Food. I loved that he spent the first half of the book talking about what drives his cooking, the produce he used and the seasons, before you even get a sniff of a recipe to try. It was a real eye-opener.

If you organised a dinner party, which three people would you invite and why? Pierre Koffmann, the French chef who was one of the first people to get three Michelin stars for a restaurant in London. He’s the Granddaddy. I went pheasant beating with him once and he was mad, joyously mad. Stephen Fry, because, well, it’s Stephen Fry, and Sir David Attenborough – can you imagine the stories he has to tell?

For more stories from the YP Magazine and The Yorkshire Post features team, visit our Facebook page.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected]. Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you.

James Mitchinson

Editor