Former Manchester 'Chef of the Year' to head-up Folk & Soul and Pioneer Coffee

ALEX Shaw, the award-winning chef who helped Volta in Didsbury reach national acclaim, has been revealed as the executive chef behind the group that has take on the closed Odd Bar in Northern Quarter.

Matt Nickson, the eponymous founder of Manchester’s musical institution Matt & Phred's, recently teamed up with Adam Regan, the man behind Stage & Radio and the newly opened Pioneer Coffee, to create a new brand, Folk and Soul. Chef Shaw has been brought in to head the food offering at the Thomas Street site when it reopens this year, as well as oversee Pioneer Coffee’s menu.

The new Folk and Soul menu will be a culinary departure for the experienced chef, who has previously worked for Great British Pub Awards ‘Pub of the Year 2017’, the Eagle and Child in Ramsbottom, and more recently for Chef Rob Owen Brown at The Hinchliffe Arms near Hebden Bridge.

Pioneer Coffee
Chef Shaw will oversee the menus at Folk & Soul and Pioneer (pictured)

Alex has only been in his new role for a few days, so is still in the menu development phase, but has revealed that the food at Folk and Soul is to be entirely plant based.

“It’s so exciting for me to be involved in a project like this,” he told Confidential. “I’ve been a chef for 25 years, where meat has been king, but this is a brilliant concept and a personal challenge.

“No-one is really thinking outside the box for vegans in Manchester at the moment, especially for non-veggies like me, but plant-based food is becoming more important in terms of awareness of sustainability. Will there really be as much good quality meat available in, say 30 years?”

I spent an hour in a Chinese supermarket yesterday discovering loads of vegan stuff I haven’t played with before

Alex describes the style of food and drink the new 100-cover music bar will serve as ‘unassumingly vegan’. There will be a variety of drink friendly nibbles on offer, including some ‘really good pies'. Coffee will come via Allpress Espresso, the renowned New Zealand roasters who supply Pioneer Coffee. But, of course there’ll be no dairy milk available and Alex is toying with the idea of creating their own range of nut and plant based milk alternatives instead.

180228 Odd Bar Img 3926
Folk & Soul will occupy the closed Odd site on Thomas Street, Northern Quarter

“This feels like the right thing to do for the area. Food is a funny one. We are running out of protein-based foods globally and it’s so easy to find deep flavoured alternatives. The quality of heritage potatoes is superb for example.”

Nickson, a keen allotment holder, enthused about the range of fantastic local produce in a recent interview: “In the North West you can find fourteen kinds of kale, a new potato heritage that once rivalled Jersey’s, Fylde asparagus, amazing gooseberries – the list is endless. We are going to showcase them all on our menu."

Alex has managed to find some interesting niche suppliers and local urban farms growing various specialist mushrooms and herbs in a sustainable way, reusing coffee grinds as fertiliser, for example.

170902 Hinchcliffe Arms Review Img 1315
Chef Shaw most recently worked with Rob Owen Brown at The Hinchliffe Arms near Hebden Bridge

“There’s more to plant based foods than boring tofu or seitan (the bland wheat protein). It can be so flavoursome and clever, but not in a cheffy way. I spent an hour in a Chinese supermarket yesterday discovering loads of vegan stuff I haven’t played with before.”

He has no plans to make Pioneer Coffee’s menu exclusively vegan though. Manchester's newest coffee shop, bar, diner and event space, in Federation House (between Victoria Station and Shudehill Interchange), will continue to offer a well sourced range of brunch and lunchtime dishes including posh porridge, various ways with avocado and a roast on Sundays. 

Folk & Soul is due to open in mid-April.