Meet the private chef with the recipe for a better life
Amid the chaotic clatter of crockery and volcanic whooshes from the coffee machine, Eddie Kilty sits and sips his latte like a man without a care in the world. It’s Wednesday brunchtime and I’ve arranged to meet Eddie for a chat at Neighbourhood cafe in Childwall. Most chefs should be working at this time of day, surely?
I don’t think I could work for somebody else because I’ve done this for four years now and my work life balance is better
One of the North Wests’ top culinary talents, Eddie Kilty has worked with Andrew Pern at the Star Inn at Harome, Tom Kerridge at Pub In The Park, and Emily Watkins at the Kingham Plough in the Cotswolds. He’s won AA Rosettes and worked in Michelin star kitchens. But before you dash off and try to book a table at Eddie’s restaurant, here lies the catch. He doesn’t have one.
Eddie is one of a growing number of hospitality entrepreneurs who have chosen to work freelance for themselves. His business, Kilty & Co, operates under two main strands; a catering company covering private dining and events, and the head chef at monthly pop-up kitchens, which have fast become the hottest ticket in town.
Like many local chefs, Eddie’s career began at Liverpool College. He went on to work at various restaurants including Mustard in Allerton, where he started as a demi-chef de partie and worked up to chef de partie.
Adventure called and Eddie headed up North to work in the Lake District, including The Ryebeck in Bowness, The Dining Room at The Oak Bank Hotel, Grasmere, and Inn on the Lake at Glenridding, earning himself a selection of AA Rosettes.
Four years ago, he took the leap and started catering for private dining events, initially just going to work in people’s homes under his own name.
“I saw there was a little gap in the market,” Eddie says. “I started doing it where I was and then I decided to move back to Liverpool and make something unique. I looked around and there was no-one doing what I was doing. I still think there isn’t.”
Kilty & Co has gone from strength to strength and Eddie has worked for clients in exotic climes like Florida, Ibiza, and Miami, and cooked for quite a few famous people. Back in Liverpool, his main challenge is that he often has to use his own kitchen.
“Obviously, there is only so much I can do,” he says. “I’ve thought about renting my own unit but it’s trying to balance the costs, and if I’ve got enough business coming in each week to make sure it’s cost effective for me to have, as well as gas and electric and all that stuff on top of it.”
It was Eddie’s pop-up kitchens at Neighbourhood that first brought this talented chef to my attention; one particular dish that I’ve had my eye on via the Kilty & Co Instagram is his beef dripping popcorn.
"Everyone always used to make sweet popcorn, and I thought to myself, I’m just gonna start playing with different flavours and see what works," he says.
“Remember when you used to have a roast dinner as a kid, and you used to roast the meat and get all the carmelisation bits on the bottom of the tray? I was doing it one day and I thought dripping would be a good thing to try and put popcorn in.
“I cooked it in the actual beef fat, and it came out and I thought - that tastes good, it just needs something else. So I came up with this little blend of seasoning. You pop it in the beef fat and pop it so it’s nice and hot and then add the seasoning and it just gives it that really nice savoury hit.”
Eddie is passionate about using local produce with a strong field to fork ethos and his chef’s CV means he is well connected with some of the best suppliers in the North West. His menus are all seasonal and he says that creative research is one of the perks of the job.
“I eat out quite a lot, I buy a lot of Michelin star cookbooks…I’m going to London this month for four days and I’ll tick some off the bucket list, like the old Savoy Grill, City Social, a Spanish place called Barrafina.
“One of my favourite places to go is Barcelona, because I think the food scene over there is just nuts and the food they’re producing is unbelievable.”
It sounds like this chef's life is the dream. Does he ever think about having his own restaurant?
“The last two years has been really hard on hospitality, and to own a restaurant - it’s a lot of money and the overheads are really high. The other thing is staffing, and for me as well, it’s finding the right location.
“I think I would maybe look at a three month or six month residency somewhere and test the water and see how it works.
“If an investor wanted to come in with me then obviously that’s fine, but I don’t think I could work for somebody else because I’ve done this for four years now and my work life balance is better; I can choose when I want to work, how many hours I want to do.
“People sometimes ask me how I’m so calm in the kitchen, and I say, because I’m enjoying doing what I want to do.
“And that’s the difference.”
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