Cheffing since 16 and moving out of home, Michael Bremner has worked in his hometown in Scotland, London, Australia and Canada until eventually returning to the place he fell in love with… Brighton. His passion and love for cooking is truly inspiring – he even describes it as his ‘happy place.’ He smashed Great British Menu not once, but twice – and is full of industry knowledge vital to any of those looking to get into the industry. A story full of emotion & laughs, Michael (though too humble to say) changed the Brighton food scene forever.
00:00:00 Marks introduction
00:02:05 Meeting Michael, setting the scene on Brighton Beach
00:02:53 How did Michael get into the chef industry?
- 00:03:11 “I’m not really from that kind of background where there’s always fresh bread being made in the morning. I come from a very typical Scottish upbringing… But my mum was a qualified chef.”
00:04:33 Going to work with mum and moving out of home at just 16
00:06:50 Hitting 20, and deciding to move on to other things
- 00:08:18 “I lived in the hills of Scotland – going to London itself, it’s the first time I’ve ever been there let alone working there… It totally blew my mind.”
00:09:11 Working around London for three years in high-class restaurants
- 00:11:03 “I absolutely loved it when I first got there, the hustle and bustle – but then I suppose after three years… I woke up one day and I thought I was one of them zombies and it was time to move on.” [Talking about London]
00:11:35 Heading off to Australia to carry on cheffing
- 00:13:50 “With the way that I cook and stuff, it’s hard for me to say what influenced me. I know Bob definitely influenced me.”
00:14:30 Heading off to Brighton after falling in love with it a few years ago
- 00:16:32 “I just really enjoy cooking. It doesn’t matter what it is – as long as I don’t necessarily need to think. What I enjoy doing is cooking something to the best of my ability.”
00:17:43 Working with Steve Dray at the Seattle Hotel
- 00:18:03 “I’ve never seen anyone clean, or have the team clean a kitchen like that. I’ve obviously worked in clean kitchens, but this was a different level. It was intense.”
00:19:40 The reputation of kitchens as angry, disciplined environments
- 00:19:55 “I’ve had some of the best times of my life in a kitchen. I’ve also had some horrendous times in a kitchen.”
- 00:22:09 “What we do, it should be fun. If you’ve got a smile on your face it reflects on the food that you do.”
- 00:23:13 “From the KP to the general manager, I don’t treat anyone any differently.”
- 00:24:59 “There’s a million other, easier jobs out there getting paid probably more than you would working as a chef. There needs to be an encouragement for people to come into kitchens – and now is the time to try and embrace that for young people.”
00:27:07 The growth of the casual dining sector – why does Michael think this has become big?
- 00:28:11 “What I really like eating actually, is things I don’t really understand how they make it.”
00:30:26 Michael’s second restaurant ‘Murmur’ – where does the name come from?
00:30:42 What inspired Michael to then head off to Canada? Wanting to learn how to snowboard & cooking
00:32:16 Coming back to Brighton in 2007, and seeing the Brighton food scene & ‘going out’ culture
- 00:34:04 “It was an eye-opening experience because, first of all, I feel like they were at the forefront of the whole sustainable-local thing. I’d never seen that before in all the placed I’d worked at – it didn’t matter if something was local or if it came from France or wherever.” [Working at Due South]
00:36:46 Plans for 64 degrees were in the works for two years… So what was Michael doing in this time? Investing in veg!
- 00:37:55 “Vegetarian food in my opinion, back then, was like… it was a back burner. It was like – let’s focus on what’s important: being in meat and fish, and the vegetarian’s get whatever’s left. And it really hit home to me.”
00:39:29 The growth in plant-based dining & sustainability
- 00:40:49 “Restaurants are the people that can dictate what the customer eats.”
- 00:41:34 “For me, it’s more the mass farming of things. The pork and the chickens and those sorts of things. The difficult thing is, they make it so cheap… They need to eliminate it – so there isn’t that option for that treatment towards animals.”
- 00:44:00 “I think we all need to embrace – not only the pollution, but I also do think about what people eat. At the end of the day, it is that person’s choice. You can’t stop someone from buying five mars bars and woofing them down.”
00:46:36 64 Degrees – the struggle from going from chef to restaurateur
- 00:47:57 “I didn’t apply for an alcohol licence, I thought it was just something you could get! Turns out it’s quite a long process!”
- 00:49:12 “It’s probably the worst way of going into business. I didn’t do any publicity. I didn’t have any PR. I didn’t tell anyone – we basically just opened the doors.”
- 00:51:12 “I honestly believe that the review we got in the observer changed everything about 64 Degrees. We went from being alright, to turning the restaurant eight times a day.”
00:55:28 64 Degrees – inspired by ‘food envy’
- 00:55:43 “The idea behind it essentially was to get a plate in the centre, and everyone sort of digs in and has a bit each. I love eating like that.”
- 00:58:09 “64 Degrees is never going to be the place that’s going to make me my millions. It’s always been about food and experience.”
01:00:17 Michael on the Great British Menu (BBC 2)
- 01:01:27 “From you getting the brief, you’ve then got two weeks to write the menu, three weeks to write your recipes. And then you’ve gotta wait for filming, so you’ve gotta practice your dishes. Then you’ve gotta wait for finals week which is eight weeks after that.”
01:02:55 Getting to the Final of Great British menu in 2016 – Michael thinking he was going to win, but losing to Tommy Banks… Time to go back and win!
01:06:28 The Banquet of Wimbledon tennis club
- 01:06:33 “That was the hardest day of my life.”
01:07:31 Relaxing, and opening up Murmur as Michaels ‘happy place’
- 01:07:57 “Just realising you’re not as good as you think you are is a really good thing to learn. It was a valuable experience for me.” [Talking about 64 Degrees, and the struggles in business]
01:12:41 Which part of Michael’s career does he find the most rewarding?
- 01:13:13 “I can walk into either site and just cook. No one will think anything of it.”
01:14:03 Good & bad business advice from Michael for those wanting to get into the industry
- 01:16:42 “Very much my advice would be – be able to step in or put yourself in a position that if anything did happen, you can takeover. That’s how you be a head chef.”
- 01:19:21 “The way that people can just say things on TripAdvisor about “Don’t go there, I beg you don’t go there – let’s shut down this restaurant.”… It’s like, this is someone’s life. Someone’s put their heart and soul into it.”
01:28:10 What could the government do for the hospitality industry?
01:33:58 Where can you go to find out more about Michael, 64 Degrees & Murmur?
01:35:08 Marks sign off & final thoughts
If you’d like to learn more about Michael, his restaurants and his love of food – check out Murmur & 64 Degree’s websites and social media channels below… Or, listen to the full podcast here.
Michael’s personal twitter: @michaeljbremner