Simon Wood on pop-up restaurants and life as a professional chef

PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 September 2016

Simon Wood

Simon Wood


MasterChef winner Simon Wood shares a favourite recipe and divulges what goes on behind the scenes in a pop-up restaurant

I’m no longer the new kid on the culinary chopping block. It’s exactly a year since I signed my first contract with Oldham Athletic Football Club at the Oldham Event Centre. I’m a year into being a professional chef and a year more experienced.

There may have been a few early ups and downs but the team at the OEC have done well. We use locally sourced Lancashire produce to deliver an eclectic mix of match day fare. It’s far more exotic than traditional pie and peas – but you can still get that too, of course.

Aside from completely transforming the match day culinary experience for fans and sponsors, we now have a hugely successful restaurant called ‘The Boardroom by Simon Wood’.

This is my first but by no means last personal venture into the world of a restaurateur. To cut my teeth both personally and as a company, we have introduced a ‘pop-up’ style restaurant every third Thursday in The Boardroom at the club.

I can’t say it’s not been hard work and a very busy time – I’ve barely come up for air - but after four successful months it’s now time to venture into the weekend market. The Broadway Suite at the club will be transformed into the restaurant and The Boardroom will be a lounge and bar area where you can enjoy a cocktail.

With all the changes also come a new menu. Head chef Steven Coyne and I have come up with something exciting as well as showcasing the best Lancashire produce our fine county has to offer. We’ve taken some from my cookery book and have got some elegant dishes delivered with fine dining style and sophistication.

I enjoy using classic flavours and taking those that are tried and tested along with a little culinary flair that elevates them to the next level. One of our new additions to The Boardroom menu is rib-eye and gnocchi, or as I like to call it, steak and chips with an Italian twist and air of opulence. This followed by my recently featured bananas and custard, a fond childhood favourite of mine.

When I make my Italian steak and chips I like to use rib-eye - it’s a favourite cut of mine. Lots of people go for the fillet as a treat but for me the rib-eye is where it’s at. It’s where all the flavour is.

When choosing your steak go for one that is highly marbled with fat. This is where the characteristic flavour of beef comes from. For me, this makes rib-eye one of the richest, beefiest cuts available.

The best steaks locally are from The Albion Farm Shop a few miles from where I live in Chadderton. Well worth the trip out to Saddleworth and the results when dinner is served speak for themselves. Served pink with crispy pan fried gnocchi, a rich green pesto and crispy rosemary. This is a timeless classic with a huge Italian twist. One that I enjoy over and over again.

At home with Simon Wood Is available from Amazon and booking information for The Boardroom restaurant can be found at or by calling 0161-785-5185.

Pan-fried gnocchi with 
steak and green pesto is on the menu at The Boardroom with Simon WoodPan-fried gnocchi with steak and green pesto is on the menu at The Boardroom with Simon Wood

Pan-fried gnocchi with steak and green pesto

Serves 4

The steak in this dish has been carefully sliced and plated rather than presented in one large piece, and instead of thick bland chips I’ve made fresh gnocchi. The herby pesto and crispy rosemary add that extra bit of texture and flavour to really set things off.


For the gnocchi

400g red potatoes

400g plain flour

1 large egg

White pepper



For the steak

170–200g fillet steak per person

Olive oil


Butter, for frying

Pesto, a drizzle

Baby chard


For the gnocchi

Roast the potatoes at 190°c. Let them cool a little and then scoop out the inside then mash. You do not need to add anything to the mash, keep it as dry as possible. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.

Next add the flour, egg and seasoning to the mash and work into a dry dough. Divide the mixture into four equal parts and roll out into a sausage shape, around 20mm in diameter. Use a plastic spatula to cut the gnocchi at 25mm intervals. Remember be neat and precise, a little care will make a huge difference when it comes to plating the dish.

Get a large bowl with iced water ready and in small batches drop the gnocchi into the boiling water. Once they float they are cooked. Remove them and stop the cooking process by dropping them into the iced water. In a colander toss them in a little olive oil to stop them sticking and place them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Cover with some cling film ready to crisp up in a frying pan at the last minute.

For the steak

If you have the equipment you can sous vide the steak. With this, it will take 1 hour at 53°c to get a perfect medium rare steak. After 60 minutes remove the steak and dry on a j-cloth, then rub with a little olive oil and season with sea salt. Alternatively, pan fry to your liking.

Now it’s time to bring the dish together. Take two large frying pans and add a little olive oil to one of them. Once hot, add the rosemary, fry until crisp then remove and set aside. In the same pan add the gnocchi and a knob of butter and cook until golden and warm throughout, adding the baby chard 30 seconds from the end of cooking.

Next in a hot pan add a little colour to your steak; this only takes a second, so make sure you do not overcook your meat. Add a knob of butter and heat up, next add the steak and using a spoon baste the foaming butter over the top. This should only take 20-30 seconds each side. Set the steak aside and rest for a minimum of two minutes.

Now it’s time to carefully plate the dish. Make sure the fillet is well rested on a j-cloth; this will prevent blood and juices leaking out and spoiling the finished plate. Neatly slice the steak and arrange surrounded by a few of the gnocchi and the crispy rosemary. Finish with a drizzle of pesto.

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