Glynn Purnell is chef-proprietor of Michelin-starred Purnell’s restaurant in Birmingham. He opened the restaurant in 2007 after receiving critical acclaim at Jessica’s restaurant, where he was proud to become the first chef in the city to win a Michelin star in 2005.
Born in 1975 on a large council estate in the Chelmsley Wood area of Birmingham, Glynn Purnell began to experiment with food from an early age. Left in charge of his younger brother and sister, he would serve them baked beans on toast with curry powder and chopped onions.
At the age of 14 he elected to go to a kitchen for work experience and ended up at the Birmingham Metropole Hotel, next to the NEC. Despite doing little more than mop the floor, he was keen to get a paid job and for the next two years he would catch the bus to the hotel every evening after school. Mopping was soon replaced with making salads and flipping burgers.
On leaving school, Glynn Purnell joined the hotel as an apprentice and worked for six years in every department from banqueting to the à la carte Terrace restaurant, where he discovered his passion for fine dining.
However, it was not until he joined Simpsons, Andreas Antona’s Michelin-starred restaurant in Kenilworth as chef de partie, that his true talent began to shine through. With Antona’s encouragement, Purnell was given the opportunity to travel all over Europe on stages and worked with Gary Rhodes, Alastair Little and Gordon Ramsay in London; the Pourcel brother in Montpellier, France; various Michelin starred restaurants in Birmingham’s twin city of Lyon; and at Zaldiaran in the Basque country of northern Spain.
During his time with Antona, who promoted him to sous chef, Purnell achieved success in the Academy of Culinary Arts’ Annual Awards of Excellence in 1996 and won the Rioja National Sous Chef of the Year, 2000 with a prize of a two week working holiday in Spain.
In 2002 he joined Claude Bosi at his two-Michelin-starred Hibiscus restaurant in Ludlow as sous chef. After nine months he moved on to accept his first head chef position at Jessica’s on its launch by Keith and Diane Stevenson. As achieving the Michelin star, Jessica’s was also named AA Restaurant of the Year (England) in 2005.
In 2007 Purnell took the decision to go it alone and opened his first solo restaurant, Purnell’s, in Birmingham’s financial district. His innovative culinary style, in which he likes to turn everyday ingredients into something special – his starter of poached egg yolk, smoked haddock milk foam, cornflakes and curry oil is a typical example – swiftly captured the attention of the critics and has won him numerous rapturous reviews and awards. The 57-cover was named best new restaurant in the 2008 Craft Guild of Chefs Awards and a Michelin star in 2009.
Purnell’s quick wit makes him an ideal chef to cook and perform in front of an audience. His first opportunity to do so came at the BBC Good Food Show in 2005, since when he has gone on to appear on UKTV Food’s Great Food Live programme and present the BBC1 documentary Working the Seas in which he followed the journey that fish make from a Brixham trawler to his own restaurant kitchen.
In the 2008 series of BBC2’s Great British Menu, the judges awarded top marks to Purnell’s dessert – marinated strawberries with tarragon and black pepper honeycomb with burnt English cream surprise – which went on to be served at a glittering banquet at the top of London’s iconic Gherkin building.
Purnell, a lifelong Birmingham City FC fan, and his partner, Kerry, have two children, Oliver and Esmé.
Purnell won through to the the finals of the Great British Menu 2009, which revolved around cooking a meal for British soldiers returning from the War in Afghanistan. His winning recipe was for a fish course comprising Masala spiced Monkfish with red lentils, pickled carrots & coconut.
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