Jim Hall is head chef at The Hudson – an all-day eatery and late bar in Newcastle city centre. We chat about what’s on the menu, the offer too good to miss, and why pastry landed him in hot water.
When did you first know you wanted to be a chef ? My older brother Rob (who’s 20 years older than me) is a chef and he cooked for my other older brother’s holy communion when I was about seven years old. I asked if I could give him a hand. I had an upside down pot in the kitchen and I was peeling carrots. He came over and he shook my head and said, ‘you’re my little commis chef today’. Since then I’ve always wanted to be a chef.
Did you study cooking at school? I did cooking in Years 7 to 9 at school because it was mandatory, but during one class I had a food fight. I went to throw a bit of pastry at my friend and the teacher walked past and it got in her hair, so she wouldn’t let me choose it as an option for my last two years of school. It set me back, not much, but when I went to college I had to start at a lower level, as I didn’t have that cookery class from school.
Where was the first place you worked? I worked with my brother for five years at The Oxford Belfry hotel, in Oxfordshire. That really give me the drive and passion to be a chef. My brother taught me more when I was younger about the managerial aspects of running a kitchen – he taught me a lot about cooking as well, but he really put an emphasis on the bigger picture and the managing side of things, how to cost menus and how the business actually runs.
What are the standout moments of your career so far? I could cook, and I was a good chef, but I needed someone to mould me into a very good chef. So, I worked for Sam Hughes at The Sir Charles Napier, in Oxfordshire. He was very classical in his approach. He was classically French trained and used a lot of techniques, and everything had to be perfect. He moulded me into, not a complete chef – as you’re learning every day – but he refined what I was and my approach and mentality to food.
Where else have you worked? I’ve been the executive sous chef at Radisson Blu in Jersey, as well as the head chef at Malmaison in Newcastle and the head chef of The Rib Room at Ramside Hall in Durham.
You’re now head chef at The Hudson – what cuisine is on offer? It’s Modern British but does touch on French food and has a lot of Mediterranean influences. It’s light with some rich flavours, but it’s quite simple. I don’t like a lot of fuss on a plate. I just like straightforward ingredients and to let those ingredients shine, rather than overcomplicating things with unnecessary garnishes that you don’t need.
What’s on the menu? I try to change the menu four times a year depending on the seasons, so we’ve just launched our summer menu. One standout dish for me is the olive oil and lemon poached chicken breast that comes with a nice tender confit leg, burnt onion purée and jus gras (dripping and gravy from the bottom of the roasting tin). Each dish has to have texture and great flavours that marry, the ingredients always have to be bang in season and as local as possible. Everything I do, I try to keep it local. All my suppliers are from Newcastle.
Have you got any good offers on at the minute? We’ve got a fantastic signature menu at the moment where you can get two courses for £10.95 or three courses for £15.95. It has the exact same dishes as the a la carte menu but it’s trying to attract people in during the week. It’s an absolute bargain.
What do you want The Hudson to be known for? A great place you can come to for drinks, dinner and snacks It’s always consistent and offers a great time. I want it to be the place to be and be seen.