He’s the executive chef of MCN Hospitality Group which owns two exclusive-use wedding venues in Newcastle as well as hotel, restaurant and wedding venue Marshall Meadows Manor in Berwick. Georga Spottiswood speaks to Richard Chilver about working for a group with a big vision, being part of a family and what customers can expect from the menus.
He’s a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, who’s the salt of the earth with a big personality – and who genuinely cares about making sure his customers have the best experience. Meet MCN Hospitality Group’s executive chef, Richard Chilver.
“I remember the call to say I got the job, and I burst into tears. I was emotionally stressed out. I’d gone from a great job to being made redundant, was freelancing as a chef and I just needed to keep a roof over my head for my family,” says Richard Chilver, whose life was transformed back in 2020 when he became executive chef of MCN Hospitality Group.
The Group, which owns The Parlour at Blagdon and Shotton Grange – both of which are exclusive wedding venues in Newcastle – was at the time looking for someone to help them drive the businesses forward and be instrumental in opening of their new venture, Marshall Manor House Hotel, in Berwick.
Richard, whose career has seen him working at leading venues in the North East overseeing wedding and banqueting as well as in high-end restaurants, was the man for the job – and he’s never looked back.
“The team here are outstanding. It’s been tough graft getting it all in place and at one point I was driving three hours a day – from Durham to Berwick and back again in the evening – while working in the kitchen at Marshall Meadows while we were in the process of recruiting a head chef.”
“Now we have an excellent team and we also achieved an AA Rosette for Marshall Meadows’ Restaurant 1782 last year, and I am proud to say that I have been part of that,” says Richard.
Working with a top management team who have a ‘let’s go for it’ attitude has also been a big win for Richard.
The company, owned by entrepreneur Nigel Marcantonio, has a bold vision to offer brides and grooms their dream weddings, as well as provide couples, families and food lovers the perfect getaway at Marshall Meadows.
“Nigel is very much a ‘let’s get it done’ man and we’ve got a pool of top pedigree managers and directors that always strive to push boundaries.”
There’s Steve Davies, who’s General Manager at Shotton Grange and The Parlour; Scott Davidson, Group Development Manager; James Little, General Manager at Marshall Meadows; Alison Oakland, who’s Operations Manager at Shotton Grange and The Parlour; and Martin Wrigglesworth, who’s Finance Director for all three venues.
“We work together as a family. We’re all a similar age and there’s no throwing egos around. We’re all about pushing forward and delivering the best guest experiences across the venues.
“Everyone is proud to work across the businesses and the company culture is one that’s really refreshing. I have been in hospitality since I was 16 and I have seen staff used, abused and mistreated. It’s amazing to be part of a team where everyone cares – including Nigel, who’s the good guy at the top. He looks after his staff and really goes the extra mile to ensure we’re all working in a great environment – and that’s massively important,” says Richard.
While Richard has head chefs in each of the three venues, his role as executive chef requires him to ensure standards are consistently high.
“I’m constantly looking at suppliers, so we buy savvy, looking at new suppliers and making sure we keep an eye on that as there’s no stability with food prices at the moment.
I’m always looking at innovative ideas, inspecting kitchens, auditing, making sure the GP [gross profit] is taken care of, menu writing, making sure staff are all trained up to standards, so all the cogs are working together and we’re firing on all cylinders. Plus, I’m still involved in the day-to-day running of the kitchens, too.”
When it comes to menus, Richard – along with this team – has put together a ‘modern fine dining’ concept at Marshall Meadows’ Restaurant 1782.
“I trained in classical cuisine but during my time as a sales rep, I also worked with Sosa – one of the world’s leading manufacturers and distributors of premium products such as texturizing agents, jellies and foams.
“I always had my own vision to create dishes on the menu that people understood but that also had elements added that gave the wow factor. We have a chive risotto dish at Restaurant 1782 which is served with sauteed halibut, wild mushroom, chive oil and saffron jelly. In theory, it’s a traditional Italian dish but by adding the saffron jelly, it elevates the dish.
“I create a saffron nage then we turn it into a jelly, which when broken, the customer gets a burst of flavour.”
At The Parlour and Shotton Grange, Richard has reimagined the wedding menus.
“We do things a bit differently and brides and grooms get to try a wide range of starters, mains and desserts, then choose three of each to offer their guests before the big day – and come back to us with everyone’s options.
“When it comes to evening menus, our street food goes down a storm. It’s funky, and cool and we’ve got everything from dirty fries with BBQ Korean pulled beef; proper dogs in brioche buns with jalapenos and crispy onions; Bao buns with pulled pork; and Belgian waffles banoffee style with toffee sauce.
“Whether our guests are booking a wedding or seeking some time away at Marshall Meadows, accompanied by good food, as a group, we go that extra mile to ensure they all have the best experience with us.”